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Hundreds of children left weeks without KCC Travel Saver bus pass

Some 800 families across the county were still waiting to receive their children's Travel Saver discount bus pass from Kent County Council weeks after the start of the school term.

Other parents who are entitled to free travel for their children have also had to fight to get the bus pass to which they were legally entitled.


The Travel Saver ticket gives parents a 50% discount on their bus fares but costs £450 to purchase.

Earlier in the year, KCC had promised that everyone who applied for the pass before July 31 would receive their Travel Saver ahead of the start of term on September 1.

But following a meeting of the council's governance and audit committee, it has emerged that 800 families – who had all applied before the deadline – had not received their passes.

A computer glitch has been blamed, which had not recorded their payments.

County councillor Harry Rayner (Con), who represents Malling West division told the committee: "I've received multiple representations from parents in my division of the impact upon them and their families of the failure by the directorate to deliver the young persons' Travel Saver cards."

Cllr Harry Rayner
Cllr Harry Rayner

He said: "Parents who have already paid £450 in July have been having to provide their children with more cash to pay their bus fares."

He said: "It's simply unacceptable. These are children trying to travel from the northern part of my division to schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

"Once again, the service failures of KCC in transport fall on the shoulders of Kent's children and parents."

Cllr Rayner was referring to a recently published audit report into the county's re-organisation of transport for its SEND pupils – those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – which had found a complete shambles in the way the council had switched to a new travel contract in February in a bid to make £2m of budget savings.

The switch-over then had left some of the county's most vulnerable children stranded and unable to get to school for up to three weeks.

The meeting of the audit committee
The meeting of the audit committee

That report had identified 61 failures in procedure that needed to be addressed, in what Cllr Simon Webb (Con) described as a "root and branch failure across the directorates."

KCC said that that all those who had applied in time for Travel Savers have now received them – five weeks late, although others who were late in applying may still be waiting.

The authority's website had warned parents that if the pass did not arrive in time for the start of school, the parents remained responsible for buying a valid bus ticket.

The website warned: "We don't refund the fares your child pays while waiting for their pass to arrive nor do we provide letters or emails that they can show the driver."

KCC said at busy times "such as the start of a new school year," it could take six weeks to process a pass.

'It's never possible to guarantee every single pass is in the hands of the student on time.'

However, KCC did allow parents a three-week grace period where children were not asked for the extra money when they boarded the bus, but subsequent to that families had to shell out.

A KCC spokesman said: "All passes relating to on-time applications, including those that were affected by the system error, should now have their pass.

"Across a scheme as large as this, it is never possible to guarantee every single pass is in the hands of the student on time where this can be affected by many things including the post and onward distribution.

"Where we are made aware of a problem with a pass which is more than just a late application, then we are resolving these with customers and if customers incur bus fares which do not simply relate to normal processing times then we will consider reimbursing these."

Cllr Rayner said that he was determined that any parents in his division who had applied for their pass in time would receive proper compensation for their extra expenses. He said: "My intention is that none of my parents will be left out of pocket."

The meeting took place at County Hall
The meeting took place at County Hall

But there is a problem. The particular bus company that services West Malling, Autocar, had no facility for taking payments.

It could neither take card payments nor issue a proper receipt for cash payments.

Cllr Rayner said: "No tickets were issued, no receipts given, no change given. Parents have no proof of the extra money they paid."

In a separate issue, grandmother Geraldine Metcalfe, from Warden Bay, near Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey, said that the free bus pass that her granddaughter was entitled to did not arrive until Wednesday of this week – again five weeks late.

She is the legal guardian for her 12-year-old granddaughter Abigail, who needed to get to the Oasis Academy in Sheerness.

'KCC has not been the least bit interested'

Mrs Metcalfe said: "The bus fare is £3 a day – that's a lot extra to find when we are all being squeezed by the cost-of-living rises."

But Mrs Metcalfe said an even bigger frustration had been the difficulty in getting through to KCC to complain and to chase up the missing pass.

She said: "It's been a nightmare. KCC has not been the least bit interested.

"They keep you waiting ages on the phone and then don't put you through."

She said: "I even emailed Lesley Game [the council's chairman] and got no response."

Parents had paid for travel passes which didn't arrive in time for the start of term
Parents had paid for travel passes which didn't arrive in time for the start of term

Cllr Rayner said there was a "cultural issue" with KCC's transport department that needed to be addressed.

The Travel Saver ticket enables Kent children, aged 11 to 16, to travel on buses to schools, in or out of the county.

This year the cost of the passes was increased by 21% from £370 to £450.

However, low-income families – defined as those qualifying for free school meals – can purchase the pass for £120. There are 1,800 such pass holders.

Anyone whose child's pass has still not arrived should email kcctravelsaver@kent.gov.uk or call 03000 41 84 84 with the child's name, date of birth and school.

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