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Have your say on school transport service

by Gemma Melling

A consultation on the transformation of the School Transport Service in St Helens borough will launch in September.

The council says its proposals focus on a number of ways to give families greater flexibility through personal travel budgets, giving young people skills through independent travel training so that they could potentially travel by themselves on public transport or walking. But they do also want to bring down the cost of the service, which currently supports more than 800 young people.

Among the options being suggested by the council are annual travel passes for 16-19 year olds with subsidies for those in need of financial support or building travel awareness through group collection points for transport at places like bus stops.

The service currently helps eligible young people to get school or training sessions, either in mainstream education or special educational needs provision, and it provides transport both to suitable schools and training inside and outside of the borough.

Cllr Nova Charlton, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Everybody has a right to getting an education that supports their development and our Schools Transport Service is one of the key ways we can help families who may need extra help to get that education.

“We are committed to continuing to deliver this service for those most in need of our help and this consultation is all about working with the families to find out how we can operate this by expanding our model that in many cases will support young people become more independent and give families greater flexibility and choice.

“I want to reassure families that as always we will assess young people’s needs on an individual basis and this is why we are looking at a wide range of options.”

The council says that in recent years the service has seen a huge rise in costs due to a number of factors including growing demand, young people with more complex needs, a lack of local special education places leading to placements outside of the borough as well as rising fuel and cost of living impacts on the service.

Since 2019/2020 the service has risen by more than £460,000 and St Helens Council says if it were to continue without changes, this cost would continue to rise by up to £200,000 a year.

Cllr Charlton added: “This consultation will help us review the service so we want to hear from those who use it now and their suggestions for reshaping how it works for them. So please get involved and help us shape the service.”

The consultation will launch on September 18 with a number of public events and engagement sessions as well as paper and online surveys for people to complete.

The results will then help shape the transformation plan of the service.

More information will be available on the council’s website once the consultation goes live.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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