A WATCHDOG rules that Slough Borough Council (SBC) ‘failed to follow the law’ when it refused free home to school transport for a disabled child.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), which investigates complaints made against local councils, told SBC to pay £250 to a family and re-review the free home to school transport application after the watchdog found the council to be at fault.

The complainant, known as Mr X, applied for free transport to take his son, who has special educational needs (SEN) and sensory difficulties, to a new primary school that facilitates his needs, which was over two miles away from the family home.

Because Mr X’s other child attends a different school and his wife uses taxis to drop the children off as he has work at 7am, he applied for free home to school transport for his SEN child.

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However, the council refused the application at first consideration and on appeal on the basis that the school was within the statutory walking distance of three miles and his child did not have a physical disability or medical condition that prevented him from walking.

Mr X submitted professional evidence that was not considered by the council, according to the LGSCO’s report. The family was told they could drop their son off at the breakfast club but they could not afford it due to the taxi costs.

The appeal panel found the law and Council’s policy were correctly applied and there were no exceptional reasons to depart from the Council’s usual policy.

An emergency transport request by Mr X was accepted by the council after his wife had a fall.

The LGSCO found the legal test and the council’s policy do not limit the eligibility for free transport to people with physical disabilities or medical conditions that cause them to be unable to walk.

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It does have scope for those who have SEN that may affect their ability to walk, such as sensory difficulties.

The council also has to consider whether the child can walk only if accompanied, and if so, if it is reasonably practicable for the parents to accompany him taking into account a range of factors such as the age of the child and whether one would ordinarily expect a child of that age to be accompanied.

The LGSCO told SBC to review the application again and make a fresh decision as well as pay Mr X for the time his son was without transport. The council will also pay £250 for Mr X’s time and trouble bringing the complaint forward.

An SBC spokesperson said: “This has now been resolved and transport has been agreed.”