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Bexley Council denies disabled children transport cover-up

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 July 2019

Bexley council offices. Picturer: Paul Bennett

Bexley council offices. Picturer: Paul Bennett

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Bexley Council chiefs have been criticised for apparently "hiding" six official critical findings from watchdogs over its decisions surrounding transport for local special education needs students.

The Labour group has now demanded a special meeting of the communities overview and scrutiny committee to be called.

This comes as it is revealed the Local Government Ombudsman has upheld half a dozen complaints regarding SEN transport applications for children and young people with disabilities since the start of this year.

The ombudsman's findings generally involved council decisions to stop helping families with transport plans.

Among those findings critical of the council was a refusal to help a 20-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer.

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Labour claims the communities overview and scrutiny committee held on July 2 received a report on SEN Transport which failed to mention any of these six cases and a verbal report from the cabinet member for education implied there had been no issues with applications for school transport.

Cllr Wendy Perfect, shadow cabinet member for education said: "Over the last year, the Labour group have consistently questioned elements of the council's SEN transport policy and whether it complies with legal requirements and have received assurances that it did.

"However, the six decision letters from the LGO suggest this hasn't been the case, given the series of recommendations to update our policies and practices."

Campaign group Contact for Families with Disabled Children said sometimes councils do get it wrong.

Council leader Teresa O'Neill said: "The cabinet member did not mislead the overview and scrutiny committee. The information he gave members was the current situation on appeals and the Ombudsman examines process."

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