Maybe you’re like us? The nearest school that could meet the needs of your child’s EHCP is miles away?
Our school trip involves a 72-mile round journey a day. That’s 18 miles each way, twice a day.
When we found the school I was delighted. Shortly after though, I began thinking. How would our child cope with the journey each day? Doubts began to creep into my mind. I knew that taxis were an option but the opportunities to accompany him on this journey would be limited. After all the problems we’d had at school I wasn’t sure a long journey with strangers would work.
My worries were allayed when I was approached by our local authority, Leeds with regards to a new scheme they were running and advised that I could apply for a Personal Travel Allowance.
I have to say the process is very easy.
What is a personal travel allowance?
A PTA is a payment to a parent/guardian as an alternative to public transport or taxis provided by the council for primary and secondary children up to post 16 education.
A PTA gives you the control and flexibility to suit you and your child by being compensated for the costs involved in taking your child to school in your own vehicle.
When I called transport they explained to us that we would have a home visit to discuss our options, it was really as simple as that!
We were given 2 options
- Mileage – Transporting my child in my own vehicle, this would be calculated from home to school and back again. The amount is worked out per mile at 50p per mile;
- Personal allowance – This may cover a variety of elements such as paying for childcare for another child whilst you transport your child to school.
Our choice was to transport my child to school myself.
I was worried that my child at 8 years old was too young to travel by himself in a taxi, there was also no certainty for the same driver to collect and drop off. I needed my child to go to school with low anxiety. I knew that the choice for us would be to transport ourselves but I had a few questions on the way!
What if work commitments get in the way and I am no longer able to transport my child each day?
Simple travel allowances are 100% voluntary for parents of children that are primary or secondary age. If circumstances change they will arrange council transport straight away.
Flexibility, what if I decide I want council transport on a Friday and Monday mornings?
The council work with you they can offer shared transport, you may decide you can take your child certain days but not the other, this can be done also with a taxi collecting your child on days that you cant.
Tailoring transport to benefit your child.
For us it’s important that the route is similar, that my child knows the route this makes our route less stressful and if we manage to set off early we can stop off on the way for a drink and a treat, breaking the journey up a little! My child is aware of whom is driving, has complete control of the radio .. anxiety levels are low, setting him up for a good day at school often resulting in dancing in the car and not forgetting lots of the famous dabbing that he does, this is him in happy mode.
Keeping in touch.
I feel very lucky to be able to transport my child, I have the chance to ask any questions at the reception on a morning. I get the chance to speak to my child’s key worker or teachers before the day starts or at the end of the day.
The majority of children do arrive by taxi, however, there are times when I bump into other parents. Its been nice to catch up and feel no longer on my own. Knowing how others are getting on, especially being new to the school is really useful. It’s nice to watch my son walking into class with his key worker, being able to kiss him at the gates, then be there for him at the end of the day with welcoming opening arms. I am unsure how he would feel or react if he hadn’t had such a good day to then sit in a car for 45 minutes with a taxi driver? Maybe he would just bury his head in his games console? But for now, I know my arms and company is the best he can get to reduce that anxiety.
Would a personal travel allowance affect my tax benefits or payments?
The answer is no! Personal travel allowances are not a benefit.
For our family being given the option to be able to transport my child to school made the transition so much easier.
Its hard for any child to start a new school let alone have the extra challenge of transport thrown on top. I appreciate its not an option for everyone due to work commitments.
If your anything like me work has had to be the second option since my son started school in reception, choosing jobs that fit around my child. My child couldn’t access breakfast clubs or after school clubs, the whole mainstream setting was too much, each day was a huge struggle. There was no possibility of holding down a job when I was on call to the school most days. I accepted that I had to put my career on hold, do jobs working from home, so when the opportunity came across that I could transport my own child to school and back each day I jumped at the chance.
We had no anxiety over which driver would be collecting our child, no anxiety over which route they would be taking today.
We get time to talk on the way home from school about what kind of day its been, I remember trying to ask these questions when my child got home from his mainstream school which was only a 10 minute drive away, he couldn’t be bothered to talk to me about his day, he needed downtime on his computer, home time is home time!
I have found that the 45-minute drive home is a great way for us to communicate about his day, talk about his achievements or problems. Home time is then just that – home time away from all school topics completely.
Not all journeys need to be the same, my son’s school has an early finish on a Friday so I have made this my adventure day with the dog. I figured that coming all the way home to just take the dog out to then go all the way back was a little pointless, so now we’ve been exploring a different neck of the woods and I have stumbled across some beautiful walks, so not only has the Personal Travel Allowance helped my sons anxiety levels stay low before the school day, its actually made walking fun again for me. Fresh air and exercise work wonders for us SEN mums! Also the added bonus of me adventuring a different area.
When do you receive payment?
The allowance is calculated over a normal school calendar over a normal school year of 38 weeks.
Payment is given at each term, Autumn, Spring, Summer. All money is paid ahead. With also no worries of collecting receipts for fuel!
I know its sometimes not an option for others to be able to have the opportunity to be your child’s own taxi but if you have the option I really do think it has a lot of benefits! The guys at Leeds Council transport want to work with families to be able to offer the flexibility and work around your family commitments. Even if you think there is no chance its maybe just worth a call to discuss, there may be options.
If you are not with Leeds Council, maybe ask your local transport services if they can or do offer something similar? As its working for us!
For Leeds council, you need to speak to Les Reed
Head of Service Facilities Management
Office 0113 3788832