The family of disabled teenager, Kirstine Drexter, are challenging Leicester County Council's plans to cancel transport services for Special Needs children aged between 16-18 years old.
Leicester County Council announced that they will cancel transport for all Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children aged between 16-18 years, which includes council funded taxis, minibuses and discounted services. The transport will be replaced by a personal transport budget, effective from September 2019, so families will be provided with direct payments to organise their own travel arrangements.
The decision came about after Leicester County Council announced that they needed to make savings of £ 20M in special educational needs and disability costs with increases in council tax rates in a bid to create more local school places.
Families in low-income households with SEND children will need to make an annual contribution of £330 (currently free of charge), which is half of the standard charge and may change based on budget outcomes in the future.
Leicester County Council has said that around 420 families with SEND children are likely to be affected and now one of those families has already decided to fight back.
The parent's of Kirstine Drexter, a severely disabled 16 year old from Markfield, have brought forward legal action against the County Council's decision which has resulted in a judicial review.
Kirstine currently takes a 26 mile round-trip to her special needs school and her father, Stefan, said that the personal transport budget would not be enough to cover the costs of transport needed and added that the decision to replace the current service was "morally wrong".
“On a more practical level, with loading and unloading her we believe that it would take us as a family around three hours a day to meet her transport needs. Caring for Kirstine is a full-time job and that time is currently used for running a range of errands and various household tasks.” - Stefan Drexter
The family are asking the Council to rethink their plans and consider the impact on all of those affected.
Specialist public lawyer, Steven Baylis from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors has said that the affect these plans will have on families is "extremely concerning" and the firm will argue that the Council's plans breach Human Rights Law and The Equality Act 2010.
“Access to transport is key to many people with disabilities receiving the education they require. The family would rather not be in this position but feel they have been left with little choice but to bring this legal case because of the county council’s reluctance to enter into meaningful talks about finding a solution." - Steven Baylis, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
The two day hearing took place earlier this week at the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and a judgement outcome is expected within the coming weeks so we will keep you updated on the decision.
Will these changes affect your family or someone you know? We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.