Foster children disadvantaged by transport policies

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found that local authorities are putting foster children at a disadvantage compared to their peers when it comes to school transport.

Reports emerged showing that foster children living further away from school than their peers were being treated differently by Warwickshire County Council, with the authority telling foster carers, that they must pay for school transport out of the fostering allowance. The children, many of whom had to attend schools beyond statutory walking distance, are entitled to free school transport.

The misuse of the fostering allowance meant that foster children were being treated differently to children who live with their birth families and attend schools beyond statutory walking distance, who would have free transport.

Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “For many foster children, who have often had a turbulent start in life, councils sometimes decide it is important they maintain the stability of attending the same school regardless of where they are living. The children and their foster carers living further away should not be penalised for this.

“I am aware there are a number of other councils across the country taking the same incorrect approach as Warwickshire. I will be writing to those I have identified to make them aware of these findings. I am pleased that by the end of the investigation Warwickshire County Council accepted its policy was wrong. I would now urge others to check their own policies as a matter of urgency to ensure they are treating fosters carers, and the children they look after, fairly when it comes to school transport.”

The Ombudsman is now asking councils across England to check their approach.

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