Court Ruling Will Not Affect Other Cases Elsewhere In Country
Specialist public law lawyers from Irwin Mitchell are continuing to support the family of a severely disabled young woman from Coventry following a legal challenge over cuts to school transport for disabled pupils.
The 18-year-old woman, Jodie Green, has a range of conditions including learning disabilities and had previously been entitled to free transport to her special school under Coventry City Council’s policy.
However, the local authority changed its policy in September last year and introduced charging for so-called ‘post-16’ transport – meaning her family is having to pay to drive her 28 miles a day to school. The local authority also decided that it could transport the claimant to school in a minibus, despite the family’s strong view that this was dangerous and inappropriate for her.
The claimant challenged the policy and the decision in her case through an application for judicial review. The judicial review application was also brought against the Secretary of State for Education as the legislation governing school transport permits councils to charge for transport for students at post-16 but not for transport for younger children and adult learners who meet the qualifying requirements.
After the claim was issued new medical evidence was produced and the local authority agreed to reconsider its decision about the form of transport for the claimant, and so the claim against the local authority did not proceed by agreement. The challenge to the discriminatory effect of the legislation was heard at a judicial review ‘permission’ hearing in the High Court on July 5. The application was dismissed on the factual position in the case for procedural reasons only that are specific to the claimant’s case. The court did not express any view upon the merits of the challenge to the legislation.
Expert OpinionWe are disappointed that the Judge chose not to allow this important claim to proceed for procedural reasons. However, it is important to stress that these procedural issues were specific to this case and therefore the decision does not affect other cases regarding local authority school transport elsewhere in the country or the potential to challenge the discriminatory effect of the legislation in relation to 16-18 year olds using the Human Rights Act.
“How local authorities fund school transport and other special educational needs services is a major issue that have has a huge impact on those affected.
“We are continuing to work with our client and will support the family in relation to the local authority’s new decision in their case when it is produced.” Steven Baylis - Associate Solicitor
Irwin Mitchell argued that Coventry City Council’s decision to charge for ‘post-16’ transport breached legislation including the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act. It also also argued that the legislation on ‘post 16’ transport gave rise to discrimination contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act, and sought a ‘declaration of incompatibility’ under the Human Rights Act in relation to this.
The legal challenge was also backed by national charity Contact which continue to campaign for a fairer scheme for post 16 transport.