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Suffolk County Council funded school travel issue application update

Under fire education chiefs from Suffolk County Council have issued an update on funded school travel applications.

Following the release of GCSE results last Thursday, which dictates how many spare seats become available for school travel, Suffolk County Council’s Passenger Transport Team has been working to continue processing as many outstanding applications for funded school travel and spare seats as possible before the start of school term.

This morning there were 472 pending applications, 442 applications were processed over the last five working days.

Cllr Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills.
Cllr Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills.

During the last week, 178 new applications have also been received – coming in two and half months after the deadline of 31 May 2019.

The total number of applications this year is 10,103 including the latest applications received this week.

Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Education and Skills, said: “I am pleased to confirm that at this point every child whose application was received on time and who is entitled to SCC funded school travel has received confirmation of their application outcome. All current pupils who remain entitled to SCC funded school travel have also had their seats confirmed.

“I know from having taken calls first-hand alongside the team during the application process, that there are a small number of applications where specific circumstances need further analysis and review. These cases are being treated with care to ensure the correct outcome is reached, this may mean that some families are not eligible for SCC funded travel who think they should be. In these cases we are working hard to find possible solutions which may include them purchasing a spare seat if one is available. There is also an active appeals process continuing for a number of cases so I must respect that process and allow all judgements to be made correctly.

“I do understand the frustration of families who may feel they have not had the outcome they expected but I also know that many families are working together with their schools and the council to come up with potential local solutions to share transport costs or find alternative transport arrangements where possible.”

Letters of confirmation are continuing to go out to parents to inform them of their eligibility.

The council came under fire after it emerged many parents had yet to find out just days before the new term starts on September 2 whether their applications had been successful, while others reported that incorrect passes had been sent.

Jack Abbott, Labour spokesperson for education at Suffolk County Council, said: “It’s hardly a cause for celebration that nearly 500 families still do not know the status of their school transport application, just days before the start of the new school term.

“Suffolk County Council’s school transport team have worked hard to implement a dreadful policy with limited resources. They didn’t cause this mess and have been dealt an impossible hand by the Conservatives ‘running’ the council.

“It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that there is still no acknowledgement of the chaos that these cuts have caused. Still no acceptance of any responsibility. Still no apology for the stress and anxiety that families have been put under this summer.

“This is not how a council should operate – people deserve so much better than this.”

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at the council, said: “Although this is progress, it’s too little too late from Suffolk County Council – 472 children still don’t know how they’re going to be getting to school next week. I can’t imagine how stressful this must be for their families.

“When the administration pushed through this policy last year, we warned them it would be incredibly disruptive.

“Despite having over a year to prepare, they still haven’t managed the transition properly.

“This whole process has been chaotic and completely unprofessional, and families in Suffolk are understandably outraged at the way they have been treated.”

Suffolk County Council have said it is imperative that a suitable photo of their child is loaded onto the system before any pass can be issued.

There are a high number of cases where a funded seat has been confirmed but no photo is currently on the system. No bus pass can be issued until this is in place. To add a photo, parents need to visit www.suffolkonboard.com/photo and follow the instructions on screen.

If there are any families who are concerned that they may be entitled to funded transport but are yet to apply or hear back from the team, the council strongly encourage them to contact the team on 0345 6066173 to discuss the specific circumstances surrounding their application and any concerns they may have.

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