A BUCKS mother was left out of pocket and was caused “hardship, anxiety, time and trouble” after being forced to take her special educational needs child to school every day despite being eligible for free transport.

This comes after the former Buckinghamshire County Council only paid the mother for two of the four legs of her daily journeys to her son’s special school.

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The new Buckinghamshire Council will pay the mother for the “trouble” it caused her and has agreed to look at the transport it has available to take children with special educational needs to school following criticism by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), which found the authority’s complaints process was “flawed”.

During an investigation by the watchdog which was launched after the mother initially complained to the council without success, the LGO found that at one point the authority requested information from the wrong school.

Michael King from the LGO said: “I am concerned the council does not have sufficient transport provision that they have a statutory duty to provide, so I have asked it to review its current services to see where improvements can be made.

“I hope that by agreeing to carry out this recommendation, the council will ensure no other families are affected in future.”

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In October 2018, the mother asked the council to pay mileage for all four legs of the journey to take her son — who has “significant” sensory needs and high levels of anxiety — to school as the authority had no suitable transport that met the child’s needs.

Months passed while the mother waited for an update on the decision and in January 2019 the council told her they had contacted the child’s school for more information but contacted the wrong school instead.

The request was refused, however, and an appeal was lodged in February 2019 before a hearing took place the following month.

Buckinghamshire County Council should have submitted a decision within 14 days of the hearing, but did not, meaning more delays for the mother, who went on to complain to the LGO about the handling of the request.

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At the end of May 2019, the council said it could only pay for two legs of the journey.

This led to the LGO claiming the council ‘had not properly considered its statutory duty to provide free school transport’.

A report from the watchdog added: “[The mother] had no choice but to take her children to school and home from September 2018. [She] could have used this time as respite from her caring responsibilities.”

Following the investigation, the council has also agreed to reimburse the mother for the milage for the return journeys from Septemeber 2018 and pay for all four legs of her journey going forward.

The authority will also apologise to the mother and will also pay for £50 for each week she took her child to school from September 2018 given the “time, trouble and anxiety” it caused.

The mother’s second child, who also has special educational needs, will be assessed to consider whether they are also eligible for alternative transport, and if they are not, it should pay for all four legs of that journey, too.

A joint statement from Anita Cranmer, Buckinghamshire Council education boss, and David Martin, the council’s logistics chief, read: “The council is committed to supporting all of our children and young people, whatever challenges they may face, to have equal opportunity to achieve their potential and enjoy better learning and lives.

“The council has accepted the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s findings that in this case there has been a failure in the application of our processes, resulting in hardship for the family.

“We have apologised to the family and made full payment in accordance with the Ombudsman’s recommendation.

“We are working to finalise the other recommendations and will ensure these are completed within the required timescales.”