Council backs independent review to improve travel support for children

November 21, 2022

Members of Cheshire East Council’s Children and Families Committee have agreed to push ahead with plans to improve and modernize travel support for children and young people in the borough following an independent review.

The impact of inflation and the increased demand for school transport, particularly for children with special educational needs and disabilities, as well as the shortage of drivers, a reduction in the number of transport operators and the Fuel costs have all put pressure on the council’s budget.

At the time of the review, Cheshire East Council provided travel support for 3,557 children and young people with a budget of around £11million. The current estimated £2.5m pressure on this budget is set to increase further by the end of the financial year.

In May this year, the council appointed Edge Public Solutions to explore options to reduce pressure on the travel assistance budget and improve the customer experience. All with the aim of providing recommendations that will sustainably support the travel of children and young people over the next three years.

The independent review includes the following recommendations:

  • The creation of an integrated travel team, an integrated travel offer, policy and strategic direction;
  • Greater use of software to provide efficient routes to meet passenger needs and better use of suppliers;
  • Develop the procurement market with better competition, efficient and innovative procurement;
  • Strong governance and clear accountabilities, with an improved budget and performance culture; and
  • Changing the offer to provide “travel solutions”, including increased use of personal travel budgets

Cllr Kathryn Flavell 250x350Councilor Kathryn Flavell, Member responsible for children and families at Cheshire East Council, said: ‘I welcome the debate and consideration of these proposals to advance improvements to this important service, as the current arrangements are unsustainable. .

“I also welcome the extensive review undertaken by Edge Public Solutions, which highlighted that we are no different from other councils in trying to keep up with growing demand and shrinking supply.

“The Children and Families Committee has approved proposals to advance initial transformation plans, realize cost savings and establish an integrated travel support team.

“The needs of children and young people will absolutely be at the heart of the plans. We know that for some young people, travel training that provides hands-on support to get around by bus, on foot or by bike can help them get around independently and without fear, so they can get to school or college. Others require door-to-door service to meet their needs.

“I recognize that the proposals will bring about change for some of our children and families, and we are committed to working with parents, children, schools and other stakeholders to develop these new ways of working.

“We are going through extremely difficult times financially, but I want to stress that we are required by law to make arrangements for some children to go to school.

“We are investing in more school places to help more children attend a local school, reducing the need to travel and supporting a healthy lifestyle by walking or cycling where appropriate. . »

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