Transformation of Travel Support Programme
Cheshire East Council provides travel support (also known as school transport) for nearly 3800 children and young people. This vital service enables eligible children to attend a school or college that meets their needs as close as possible to where they live. Travel support may be provided to those who live some distance away from their nearest school or college, where the route for them to walk is unsafe or who have to travel further to have their needs met, for example, in a special school.
What is the transformation of travel support?
Cheshire East Council has embarked on a three-year change programme to improve and modernise travel support for children and young people across the borough. Over the next three years we propose to:
- Where appropriate, shift the offer to provide travel solutions for children and young people, including the increased and easier use of personal travel budgets and independent travel training. This will help families to make travel arrangements that best meet their needs.
- Work together with parents and carers to introduce a customer charter that sets clear expectations between parents, the council and transport providers.
- Create an integrated travel team within the council to provide a joined-up travel offer, consistent and fair policy and strategic direction.
- Greater use of software to provide effective routes to meet children’s needs and best use of transport.
- Improve the way we procure transport for children to make it more effective and to minimise change, which we know is really important for children.
Further details of the five project areas can be found below.
The following checkboxes are used for accordion drop-downs. When selected, they show content that was visually hidden
A personal travel budget (PTB) is a cash amount awarded to parents/carers as an alternative to expensive home to school/college taxi journeys, to enable them to make their own personalised and flexible travel arrangements. Following consultation with parents and carers on changes to the PTB offer for children and young people who are eligible for free school transport, recommendations were put to the children and families committee on 10 July 2023. The recommendations looked to address the mileage rate used to calculate the PTB, which is low in comparison to other councils, simplify the claim process and build in flexibility for exceptional cases.
The committee approved the following recommendations:
• An increase of the current mileage rate for PTBs from 25p per mile to 45p per mile, effective from the start of the next academic year (September 2023).
• The proposed changes to the school transport policies and procedures in relation to the process for claiming PTBs, including removing the requirement for parents / carers to provide proof of attendance, arrange regular monthly payments and provide flexibility within the scheme for exceptional cases.
Parents and carers directly affected by the changes have been notified. If you require any further information, contact SENDTransport@cheshireeast.gov.uk.
Agenda for Children and Families Committee Decision on Monday, 10th July, 2023, 2.00 pm | Cheshire East Council
Personal Travel Budget Scheme Consultation feedback/report 2023
How to apply for free school travel
We are changing the way that we engage with the bus and taxi companies who currently provide transport for children and young people and looking to encourage new suppliers to the market. A new way of tendering routes to school/college will be in place and events to raise awareness with bus and taxi companies have taken place.
The first changes to transport arrangements as a result of this work will take place in January 2024 and it is possible that there may be a change to some existing arrangements (i.e. a different vehicle and driver may be taking some children to school/college from that date). We aim to keep any disruption to a minimum and will expect all drivers to be introduced to families before the start of term. It is intended that these arrangements will provide consistency in the longer term.
We are progressing with the reclassification of two routes currently assessed as unavailable walking routes. These are routes to school where highways improvements mean that they can now classified as available for children to walk to school. This means that a number of children who are currently eligible will no longer receive free school transport.
These details will be brought to the children and families committee on September 2023. This was approved unanimously with a recommendation to implement these following a notice period of 12 weeks. Parents and carers will be informed of this in due course.
Communications with affected parents/carers will be made as soon as the committee has made its decision in line with the councils existing policies for school transport.
We are reviewing other routes to see if there are any changes we can make to make these available too.
Children and families agenda for September
Walking routes to schools
We have been looking at other Local Authorities who provide support to children and young people with special needs to enable them to travel independently. We have also visited local schools and settings to see how they could support with this initiative, along with discussing this with the Parent Carer Forum.
In the next few months, we will be reviewing all of our policies in relation to home-to-school travel assistance to ensure that these reflect the new ways of supporting children with their travel arrangements. This will also include looking at the charges for young people aged 16+ with SEND and the cost of spare seats.
We will be starting a consultation on any potential changes to our policies at the end of October 2023.
The individual needs of children and young people will be central to our plans. We know for some young people, travel training that provides practical support to travel by bus, on foot or bike can help them to travel independently, and without fear, so they can get to school or college. Others need a door-to-door service to meet their needs.
We recognise that the proposals will mean change for some of our children and families to improve their arrangements in the longer term, and we are committed to working together with staff, parents, children, schools and other stakeholders to develop these new ways of working and to discuss individual arrangements.
Why there is a need for change
The impact of inflation and increased demand for school transport, in particular for children with special educational needs and disabilities, together with shortages in drivers, a reduction in the number of transport operators and the cost of fuel have all affected the level of service we are able to provide to children and their families and put pressure on our budget. These pressures on the service have given us the opportunity to find ways to make improvements.
What difference the changes will make
The transformation of travel support aims to provide a number of benefits to children and families including:
- an improved service, which minimises change for children
- fairer and more consistent decisions
- better communication
- flexibility through personal travel budgets
- clearer expectations through the customer charter
- improved independence for some children through support and training
When changes will happen
The transformation programme started in April 2023 and the main changes will take place over the next two years. It is very important that these changes make a difference over the long term. That is why we are proposing to introduce them in a phased way that is sensitive to the needs of children and families.
How to get involved and stay updated
'Together' is our shared definition of co-production in Cheshire East and it is essential that any changes are carried out together with our key stakeholders, including parent/carers of all children and young people who receive travel support to an education setting (including post-16), young people, schools and colleges, our workforce and providers. There will be opportunities for parents and carers to participate. We will engage with parents throughout this process to ensure that the experiences of children and their families are considered in these changes.
Bi-monthly meetings of key stakeholders, including parent/carer representatives, have been helping to shape our plans.
We will have focus groups to inform developments on areas of our policy and will consult formally with all those affected on all relevant policy changes.
We will continue to update all those affected through briefings such as this that will be emailed to parent/carers.
You can email TravelSupportReview@cheshireeast.gov.uk with your comments.
If your child has additional needs, then the Parent Carer Forum is keen to hear your views.
For general queries on the transformation of travel support programme, please contact:
Children’s Travel Support Team at:
For general enquiries about free and subsidised travel support for children and young people with special needs email SENDTransport@cheshireeast.gov.uk or phone 0300 123 5012.
For other enquiries, email email@example.com or phone 0300 123 5012.
Page last reviewed: 04 August 2023
Thank you for your feedback.