“Ill thought through” cuts to school transport for young people with special needs could be “potentially damaging for families”, according to a charity.

Last week Bucks County Council (BCC) gave the green light to plans to scrap free school transport for pupils with special educational needs (SEND) over the age of 16.

Trustees at Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) have slammed the council’s move – questioning if vulnerable young people will be safe on public services once the changes are enforced.

They fear the changes will “place more burden on parents and carers” who may struggle to find the time or money to get their children to school independently.

A statement issued by the charity said: “County have proposed that disabled young people will be trained to be able to travel independently on public transport.

“But there are no details of who is going to deliver this training, how it will be funded, or even how likely it is that disabled young people will be able to overcome the many barriers presented by public transport?

“Everyone is individual, and it would not be a case of developing one programme which could be implemented for all.”

Trustees have also raised  concerns the changes may lead to more disabled young people not attending school regularly, or leaving school altogether to be home educated.

BuDS Trustee, Ann Hedges, said: “We appreciate the financial pressures that county has, but this change will massively increase the burden on parents and carers, and cause knock-on changes such as increasing the need to support families and causing disabled people to drop out of education.

“The cuts seem to be very short-sighted and done without thinking about the long-term implications not just for disabled people but county itself”.

Chair of trustees, Andrew Clark, added: “These changes do seem to be ill-thought-through and potentially very damaging for Bucks families.

“We urge the council to go back and look at them again, especially in the light of all the other cuts to services which are also impacting families with a disabled member.”

After plans were approved by BCC’s cabinet last week, parents of SEND pupils over the age of 16 will now be asked to contribute to their child’s school travel costs.

BCC hopes to encourage more pupils to travel to school independently on public routes.

No changes will be made to statutory arrangements for 5,000 pupils who are eligible for free transport, such as young people aged five to 16 and low-income families travelling within a specified distance.

Cabinet member for education at BCC, Mike Appleyard, said the changes will be introduced “alongside increased support” so that pupils “can develop essential life skills”.

He added that SEND pupils aged 16 to 19 can apply for a bursary to help fund their school transport costs – which is arranged through the Education Funding Agency.

He said: “We recognise that change can create uncertainties and so we will put in place support early, working with families to understand what these changes will mean to them.

“For all current transport users that will mean understanding what the impacts are on the ability to travel independently.

“Where independent travel training and a bursary application is not an option, we explore other choices available.”