Go back a step

New research from Contact shows deepening school run crisis for disabled sixth form students

Thursday 20th February 2020

Increasing numbers of disabled teenagers are being charged or denied school transport after their 16th birthday due to a loophole in the law and council funding pressures.

Our new research shows:

  • 79% of disabled young people are denied or charged for school transport or face disruptive changes when they turn 16:
    • 63% of disabled young people aged 16-18 are being charged for their school transport
    • 16% are denied school transport or face changes that are not always suitable
  • One in 10 disabled young people are paying over £1000 a year for school transport

Our survey of 525 parents of disabled children aged 16-18 in England found that these charges and changes are taking their toll on families already under enormous pressure: 

  • 45% experienced increased stress
  • 47% experienced financial difficulties as a result
  • And one in 10 reduced their working hours or had to stop their child attending school.

The launch of our new findings today (Thursday 20 Feb) coincides with a family's legal challenge of the school transport loophole in the Court of Appeal. Stefan Drexler is challenging Leicestershire County Council's decision to change school transport arrangements for his disabled daughter Kirstine. If successful their case could have benefits for disabled 16-18 year olds up and down the country.

Close the loophole

Amanda Batten, Chief Executive of Contact, said: "Many disabled teenagers can't travel independently to school or use public transport so are unable to take advantage of discounted fares. And some are travelling a lot further to school, as they attend special schools or colleges. It's simply not fair that a young person is expected to be in school or training until 18 but does not have the transport to get there once they turn 16. That's why we are calling on the government to close this loophole in the law and support local councils to meet their duties."

The loophole means that funding transport for disabled teenagers aged 16-18 is up to an individual council's discretion. And as councils struggle with budget pressures more and more are withdrawing funding, cutting transport or introducing cheaper alternatives which are not always appropriate.

As a result, Contact's helpline has seen a 40% increase in enquiries about the loophole in the last three years.

"Do I take her out of college? How will it impact my job"

Karen said: "My daughter was 17 in August and in November I received an invoice for the school minibus. It came as a great shock because there was no letter informing me that this change would be taking place.  They want £500 for the year. I need to assess my circumstances, do I take her out of college or not? How will it impact my job as I'm a lone parent. It's really stressful and worrying."

The government says there is a bursary to help teenagers with the cost of school transport. But Contact's survey found that the 16-19 bursary is neither accessible nor sufficient to cover travel costs. Only 12% of families are successful in getting any money from the bursary and just 4% of eligible families got the full amount of £1200.

Read the full Close the Loophole post 16 school transport report

Listen to our Close the Loophole podcast