7:00 AM September 13, 2022
Some children across Suffolk have been left without transport to school after a number of taxi firms canceled their contracts with Suffolk County Council.
Taxi firms say they have made the decision as a result of rising fuel bills and staff shortages.
Prior to the start of term on September 5, 39 contracts were handed back, affecting an estimated 120 children and young people.
It is believed that a number of these children are in need of SEND (special education needs and disability).
Kelly Smith is a single parent who lives in Beccles with her three autistic children.
Two of them, aged seven, attend school in Norwich.
“Two weeks ago, I was told a certain taxi company would take my school to school,” she said.
“But then they backed out.
“My sons aren’t getting their education and I’ve had to home school them.
“I even rented a car for four days just so I could get them there. That cost me over £100 to do.
“I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall. It’s unacceptable.”
Rachel Hood, cabinet member for education, SEND and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “This is an unprecedented situation and we continue to do everything we can to find replacement travel for children and young people.
“It has been hugely frustrating for those families affected, especially during the first week of a new school year.
“We are now meeting with taxi companies to understand how best we avoid this happening again, while recognizing the pressures they currently face.”
Suffolk County Council now says it has managed to reduce the number of children affected to 18 as of last week.
The council says they have a mechanism for reimbursing families who take their own children to school.
If you are able to take your child to school or you have a relative who can then they will reimburse you at a rate of 45p per mile.
Jack Abbott, former Labor Party education spokesperson at Suffolk County Council, said: “’To have all this upheaval at the start of a new school term will have added to an already stressful time.
“Although a relatively small number of taxi firms have withdrawn their services so far, cost pressures will continue to cause issues for many businesses for the foreseeable future.
“It is important that the situation is urgently reviewed to prevent other firms handing back their contracts, which would leave more families being left in the lurch.”