Judicial review to challenge council policy on school transport for vulnerable pupils

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A judicial review examining the legality of Leicestershire County Council’s proposed changes to its school transport policy for vulnerable pupils over the age of 16 is set to get underway on Wednesday.

The local authority confirmed in March last year that it planned to amend its services by removing transport for eligible children between 16 and 18, including those who live in the Melton area, and instead providing their families with direct payments to arrange their own travel.

Further changes would also remove the discounts that some families receive on transport, meaning many would now have to make a contribution towards it.

The proposals are set to come into force in September this year.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law and Human Rights team is acting for the family of Kirstine Drexler, a teenager with special educational needs.

At the end of last year the legal experts were granted permission for a judicial review to be held.

The hearing set to take place at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre is listed for two days.

Steven Baylis, the specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who is acting in the case, said: “The first-hand account we have heard from Kirstine’s family about how they and many other families will be affected by these plans is extremely concerning.

“Access to transport is key to many people with disabilities receiving the education they require.

“The family would rather not be in this position but feel they have been left with little choice but to bring this legal case because of the county council’s reluctance to enter into meaningful talks about finding a solution.

“We are hopeful that this judicial review will fully examine all aspects of this decision and ultimately lead the county council to rethink its plans.”

Kirstine (16) is severely disabled and currently uses transport services from the council to make the 26-mile round trip from her home in Markfield to a special school in the region.

Her father, Stefan (60) said: “For Kirstine, the trip to school on the bus is one of the highlights of her day.

“There is a little community of people who use the service and they are so close that even the driver attended her last birthday party.

“She would be completely devastated to lose that experience which she loves so much.

“On a more practical level, with loading and unloading her, we believe that it would take us as a family around three hours a day to meet her transport needs.” Caring for Kirstine is a full-time job and that time is currently used for running a range of errands and various household tasks.

“Losing the service would put a huge amount of strain on us as a family and we think it would also be harmful to her on a personal level and cause significant upheaval,” added Stefan.

“The council desperately needs to rethink these plans and consider the impact they could have on all of those affected.”

Irwin Mitchell will argue on the family’s behalf that the county council’s plans breach both human rights law and the Equality Act 2010.