CHILDREN with special educational needs will have to pay to travel to school in policy changes agreed by the council.
But the fees will be less than expected after members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWAC) ruling group voted to alter the original recommendations.
CWAC’s executive group agreed changes to the school transport charging policy, including three revised recommendations that would see parents of pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) up to four years old or between 16 and 19 years old or pupils with medical needs paying £660 for transport in September.
The original proposal was for a fee of £1,200.
The fee will rise to £880 in September 2015 to bring it in line with the cost for transport for mainstream students aged over 16.
Clr Mark Stocks, executive member for children and young people, explained that free transport previously offered by the council was discretionary and not a statutory requirement.
He said the proposals were put forward in a bid to help CWAC save £9 million in services for children and young people.
He said: “I fully appreciate the impact that this could have on some of the families who have vulnerable children.
“I do fully appreciate that, but we do have a very difficult situation.
“We have currently 447 children in care who don’t have the loving, caring, supportive parents that you all are and we have a duty, a responsibility, to look after those children to the best of our abilities and unfortunately that comes at a cost.
“The reality is we have had to make some really tough decisions and this I have to say is one of the toughest.”
The average cost for discretionary SEN transport is £5,200 per student.
With the new charging policy, the council subsidy will be more than £4,000.
A reduced fee of £330 will be available to low income families from September, rising to £440 from September 2015.
Cases for medical needs children will be considered on an exceptional basis.