School transport funds cut for Down's syndrome girl

Written by on June 26, 2019

The mother of a 16-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome says she may not be able to go to school any more because a council has withdrawn funding for transport.

Victoria Leadbetter, from Birmingham, uses a wheelchair and has used the transport for eight years, but now she is 16 the funding has been stopped.

Travel assistance up to 16 is statutory, the city council said.

But it was “discretionary” for those of sixth-form age, the authority added.

Her mother, Nicola, said legally she has to send her daughter to school. Without transport, she and her daughter, who has an academic age of six, face catching two buses to get to Selly Oak Trust School, as she is unable to drive. Her daughter uses a wheelchair for long distances.

“Physically I couldn’t get her to school, physically (I) couldn’t do it,” she said.

“The buses are crowded and (it’s) virtually impossible at times to get a wheelchair on the bus…”

Headteacher Chris Field said: “Some of our parents financially really struggle.

“But it’s the assessment process and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a real logic, rhyme or reason to how they’re making the decisions.”

A council spokesperson said: “While travel assistance for children aged four to 16 is statutory, it is discretionary for young people of sixth-form age and applicants must demonstrate exceptional reasons to be awarded this assistance.

“While we do not comment on individual cases, parents do have the right to appeal against decisions made regarding their children’s travel assistance and we will always write to them to explain how they can do this.”

Disability charity Scope and the Down’s Syndrome Association said they had a number of parents in a similar situation.

Mrs Leadbetter said she will be lodging an appeal.

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