I represented a constituent today at an Education Transport appeal. In the course of a year, County Councillors are asked to act as ‘advocate’ for many families whose children are either refused a place at the school of their choice, or whose application for transport funding is similarly refused, and go to appeal.
In this case, although my constituent shall of course remain anonymous, the child had achieved staggering GCSE results – eight A and two A* grades – and was eagerly anticipating her progress into the sixth form. However, our Kent “Freedom Pass”, which for £50 a year gives free tranvel both home to school and at evenings and weekends, does not yet apply to those of sixth form age, and the home to school transport costs fall back on parents once more.
In the case of my constituent, the mother only worked part time, as she also looked after the father, who is on Incapacity Benefit. Although KCC’s school transport policy caters for families in receipt of benefit, unbelievably Incapacity Benefit is not on the list, unless it also includes Income Support.
I argued that our policy needed to be reviewed to include this type of benefit, and that in the meantime, we should look at this case on its merits, which was a clearly proven case of financial hardship.
The appeal was successful, but I have already spoken to colleagues in education to ensure that this policy review is undertaken immediately. There’s nothing worse than obstructive bureaucracy, and our job as elected Councillors must surely be to root this out and resolve it wherever we find it.