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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 15th October 2012

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

ALN Transport Service Review Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To report to Scrutiny the findings and recommendations of the ALN Transport Service Review.

Recommendations

1.             That Scrutiny considers accepting the recommendations of the review and the draft policies presented and refers the same to Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To deliver improvements and clarify service provision and policy.

Background

2.             The focus of the review was to consider the existing provision and policy for providing home to school transport to pupils that have Additional Learning Needs (ALN) which prevent them from travelling to and from school either on mainstream transport or independently, subject to the requirements of the Learner Travel Measure (Wales) 2008.  The review group was required to identify areas for improvement in order to provide a comprehensive service and clear policy statement whilst addressing budgetary considerations.  The Objectives and Purpose of the Review were:

  • To examine existing service provision for ALN pupils in the Vale of Glamorgan and identify any gaps and overlaps in provision.
  • To examine examples of best practice in the area of ALN Transport and identify what can be learned from these examples.
  • To investigate and to clarify policy and procedure in relation to these areas.
  • To investigate creative ways of providing a quality service within a reduced budget.
  • To make recommendations of the above points to the Scrutiny [Lifelong Learning] Committee.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             In line with Council objectives, the review group identified the following desired outcomes for the service:-

  • A clear policy statement on the provision of ALN transport.
  • A consistent approach to transport provision for ALN pupils including clarification of policy with regard to those pupils aged between 16-19 (College students), respite placements, Looked After Children (LAC) and parent mileage payments.
  • A streamlined service operating within the budget allocated whilst providing safe and suitable transport for those ALN pupils entitled to the service.

4.             The review followed 4 C's methodology.  This required the review group to Challenge, Consult, Compare (Performance) and examine Competition.  Further information on the detail of the methodology used is contained in Appendix A.

5.             The review was finalised with the following recommendations being made. In addition to these, several operational recommendations were made and have been implemented by the service.

 

A - Independent Travel Scheme

 

It is recommended that exploration of the feasibility of this scheme is made by the appropriate officers with the intention of supporting young people with ALN in the development of the skills necessary to travel to school independently. This is likely to be managed via Ysgol Maes Dyfan with support from Children and Adult services. As a result of the exploration of Independent Travel Schemes by the review group, a working group is already considering the implications of adopting a pilot study in collaboration with Cardiff Council. This, however, falls outside the scope of the review and will be dealt with separate to the ALN Transport Service.

 

B - Further Corporate Review required

 

The ALN Transport Service secures a value for money service that provides a safe, reliable and efficient transport service for pupils. Nevertheless it is recommended that further investigation is made into the potential savings to be made when arranging and procuring other forms of transport throughout the Council including the consideration of a Framework arrangement. OneVale has agreed in principle to undertake a costs/benefits analysis exercise in order to assess feasibility, prior to ratification by Council.

It is also recommended that a further review is considered to examine the feasibility of a centralised approach to managing transportation throughout the Council. This would need to be looked at in considerable detail and a sound financial business case drawn up demonstrating benefits and savings etc. This is beyond the remit of this review and would need significant resources to complete.

 

C - Post 19 Transport ceasing with effect from September 2012

 

It is recommended that in order to ensure the best use of resources, transport provided by the ALN Transport Service should only be provided to pupils up to the age of 19 as required by legislation. In previous years, spare seats on existing transport routes have been made available to ex pupils of the Vale of Glamorgan choosing to continue their education at Barry College over the age of 19. Following a review of the existing routes and the 16-19 policy/ arrangements (recommendation D), it has been determined that there is no need to continue with transport to Barry College and therefore this discretionary arrangement is no longer required. This potentially affects seven students over the age of 19 however consultation with Barry College has already taken place on this issue and support is available via the college for these students to ensure that they are not adversely affected.

 

D - Clarification of Policy Arrangements for pupils aged 16-19.

 

It is recommended that the minor amendments to the procedure and policy in place for transport to pupils aged 16-19 are adopted in order to simplify the process for students and their carers. It is recommended that the process confirms that the ALN Transport Service only provides transport to those entitled pupils who continue to be educated at school post 16 and that Financial Services manage all arrangements for those 16-19 year old pupils continuing their education elsewhere. This has been agreed with the relevant Heads of Service. The existing procedure was found not to be sufficiently clear and had caused delay in receiving entitlement in a few cases. No changes to entitlement of individual pupils will occur as a result of these new, simplified arrangements however it is anticipated that this clarity of roles will assist parents and service users in accessing the appropriate service promptly. The changes to the draft policy recommended clarifies operational procedures only. Consultation with the relevant Head of Service has taken place (see Appendix B).

 

E - Clear Policy Statement Completed

 

It is recommended that the draft ALN Transport Policy included in Appendix C, is adopted as Council policy. Consultation with the relevant Heads of Service and Corporate Management Team has already been undertaken.

 

F - Respite

 

It is recommended that as part of the exploration of the potential savings referred to in recommendation B, a Service Level Agreement is developed between Children Services and Strategic Planning & Performance to ensure that any discretionary transport arrangements provided by the ALN Transport Service to respite accommodation on behalf of Children Services are funded by the appropriate service area. Currently the full cost of the transport arrangements are borne by Learning & Skills and these costs have escalated significantly in recent years due to the increase in the number of journeys required. It is acknowledged that this increased strain on the ALN Transport Service budget cannot continue however it has been agreed that further exploration of potential savings to be made by Children Services to offset some of these costs will take place before a formal SLA can be formalised, effective April 2013. Recoupment of the costs of the administration undertaken by the ALN Transport Service on behalf of Children Services has also been agreed in principle and will commence with effect from September 2012.

G - 2/3 Mile Limit Implications

 

Following consultation it has been identified that several Welsh authorities are adopting a statutory approach to ALN transport entitlement which means that transport is only provided to pupil's who live 2 miles (primary age) or 3 miles (secondary age) from school other than where the pupils individual ALN provides an exception. It is therefore recommended that the ALN Transport Service adopts the same consistent approach, i.e. the adoption of the 2/3 mile limit in line with mainstream transport qualification criteria. However, where pupils live within the 2/3 mile limit and have identified needs which would prevent them from being able to travel independently (or accompanied by an appropriate adult) to school without transport being provided by the ALN Transport Service then the Directorate may provide an exception, normally via the Special Educational Needs [SEN] Panel. Exceptions can be made only within the guidelines agreed between the ALN Transport Service and the Pupil Support Service and would be subject to review. It is anticipated that this change would have minimal impact to service users but would allow for review of entitlement as pupils become older and more independent. This change is likely to affect less than ten pupils currently receiving transport and any changes would be appropriately managed with involvement of all relevant parties to ensure a smooth transition.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

6.             The review looked for efficiencies in service provision in order to sustain services within the budget available.  Approximately £20,000 savings have already been identified via the review group, subject to the acceptance of the recommendations offered which, if accepted, will allow the service to better focus its resources on its statutory requirements for service provision.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

7.             Sustainability and Climate Change implications were considered by the panel and the appropriate checklist completed.  At all times, the service looks for ways to reduce the number and length of routes used to transport pupils wherever possible.  A Sustainability checklist has been completed.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

8.             The Council has a statutory duty under the 1999 Local Government Act to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

9.             The law relating to school transport is contained under Sections 444 and 509 of The 1996 Education Act 1996 and the Learner Travel (Wales) Measures.  The Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 replaces provisions applying to Wales in Sections 509, 509AA, 509AB, 509AC and 509A of the Education Act (as amended) and Section 444 is amended to provide a higher level of entitlement to free transport.

10.        The Education Act 1996 (as amended) sets out the law for the attendance of pupils at schools and The Learner Travel Measures 2008 sets out related provisions for school/learner transport in Wales.  The Measure places a duty to provide transport for children receiving primary education who live two miles or further from home to the nearest suitable school and three miles for pupils receiving secondary education.  The law does not treat children with additional learning needs differently from other children in this respect but a local authority must consider a pupils additional learning needs when making transport decisions.

Crime and Disorder Implications

11.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

12.        A clear policy is required which simplifies the procedure for those pupils with disabilities as compared with those pupils without a disability.  A draft policy is now available for adoption by Council as part of the recommendations of this review.  An Equality Impact Assessment has been undertaken at the beginning of the Review the outcome of which was fed into the development of the Review.

Corporate/Service Objectives

13.        The ALN Transport Service has been identified in the 2012/13 Strategic Planning and Performance Service Plan as an area that will be examined to identify savings and efficiencies.  A reduced budget was agreed effective from the financial year 2011/12.

Policy Framework and Budget

14.        This is a matter for Executive decision by the Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

15.        Consultation has been carried out with Members, parents/guardians, pupils, Headteachers, Officers, voluntary organisations, other Welsh authorities and transport providers as part of the review.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

16.        Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

Scrutiny Report, 5th December 2011

Internal Audit Report, November 2010

 

Contact Officer

Lisa Lewis

Strategic Planning and Performance Officer

01446 709899

 

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Strategic Planning & Performance

Mark Haynes, School Organisation and Access Manager

Operational Manager - Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Chief Learning & Skills Officer

 

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