Published: 00:01, 09 November 2017
A mother of two children who both have cerebral palsy is angry with Kent County Council after her house was left in disrepair and she was refused provision for her son’s school transport.
Kelly Dowding, 37, of Truro Road, Gravesend, is upset after work to convert downstairs rooms into a bedroom and wet room for son Michael, 12, who has spastic diplegia and uses a wheelchair, came to a halt.
She understands builders, hired by the council,went into liquidation. The work was being paid for thanks to a £30,000 grant from KCC and Gravesham council.
The former NHS course co-ordinator, who is looking to return to work after taking time off to care for Michael and daughter Lily, nine, said KCC had also refused to provide Michael transport – either a taxi or a minibus to cater for his needs – to Northfleet Technology College (NTC), in Colyer Road.
Its rules state the child “must be attending their nearest appropriate school” to qualify.
Husband Anthony, 47, a training manager at a London hospital, is repeatedly late for work as he now drops Michael off and the family relies on Mrs Dowding’s disabled sister-in-law to collect him. Mrs Dowding does not drive.
Mrs Dowding said: “They have left my house in disrepair.
“When I got back to KCC I was told the builders had gone into liquidation. They haven’t acknowledged anything we have sent them.
"We have also applied for transport for my son to get to Northfleet Technology College.
“We have been let down by Kent County Council because according to them the closest school is Thamesview. It is an even worse journey.
“NTC is the school he wanted to go to because he wants to go into engineering and they have a lot of the facilities.”
A transport appeal has also been turned down.
“I chose my school and that is where I want to go. I feel as if they are taking that privilege away” - Michael Dowding
Michael, who is in Year 7, said: “I’m quite angry with it. I want it to just be sorted out.
“I love my new school with a passion. They are just so friendly, which is the nice bit.
“I chose my school and that is where I want to go. I feel as if they are taking that privilege away.”
A KCC spokesman said the Dowdings were able to appeal to KCC’s transport regulation committee appeals panel for additional transport support and agreed they were happy with the work that was carried out.
She added: “When a transport application is received it is assessed against KCC’s transport policy for eligibility.
“To be considered eligible, a child of Michael’s age needs to attend their nearest appropriate school and for it to be at least three miles from their home.
“Appropriateness falls into two categories – age appropriate, relating to attendance at a primary or secondary school; and ability appropriate, relating to attendance at a mainstream or special school.
"Parents are made aware of KCC’s transport policy at the point of application for school places.
“Where a parent decides that they would prefer to send their child to an alternative school than their nearest appropriate school, they are responsible for transport arrangements. However, KCC offers a heavily subsidised discretionary Young Person’s Travel Pass (YPTP), to support these learners in accessing a school of their preference.
“The YPTP offers free-at-the-point-of-travel access to any buses on the public bus network and can offer a significant saving to families. Where a family is refused free school transport, they are also able to appeal to members of KCC’s transport regulation committee appeals panel.
“This panel has additional authority to grant transport assistance to non-eligible children, if they consider that the circumstances warrant additional support. The adaptations to the Dowding family home were jointly funded by KCC and Gravesham Borough Council.
“The family ‘signed off’ the adaptations in June 2015, meaning they agreed they were happy with the work that had been carried out.
“Adaptations of this nature generally come with a warranty from the builders or contractors that carried out the work and families should contact them should any problems arise after the work has been signed off.”
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