Upheld in whole or in part
Non-public interest report issued: complaint upheld
Vale of Glamorgan Council
Mrs N complained about her son’s entitlement to school transport from the Council, specifically, whether the decision made regarding him not being entitled to free school transport was in line with relevant guidance, policies and legislation, and if the information regarding the entitlement of children in his position (who chose an out of catchment school on the basis that due to catchment changes it would soon become the catchment school for his address) to free school transport was communicated sufficiently and appropriately. She also complained that the information regarding the option of purchase places on school transport being subject to renewal each year wasn’t communicated clearly, and about the Council’s handling of her complaint.
The Ombudsman found that the Council had acted in accordance with relevant legislation, in that as Mrs N’s son had been offered a place at a closer school the Council therefore did not have to provide transport to his preferred school. This element of the complaint was upheld. He found that while information was made available by the Council regarding the issues raised, some of this, particularly surrounding how a child’s catchment school was defined, and what happened with transport entitlement when a catchment area changed, was not entirely clear. He considered that if the information had been more specific, whilst it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Mrs N’s complaint, it may have meant she wouldn’t have needed to go through the full complaints process. As this was an injustice to her the Ombudsman partly upheld this complaint. The Ombudsman also found that the form to purchase bus passes did not specifically state that a pass had to be reapplied for every year and did not roll over, and that the handling of Mrs N’s complaints could have been better. These complaints were therefore upheld.
The Council agreed to apologise to Mrs N for the issues identified and offer her a £250 payment in recognition of her time and trouble in making the complaints, and the various elements of unclear communication identified. It also agreed to update relevant policies and guidance, including its bus purchase pass application form, its learner traveller policy, and all relevant school transport and admission documents, to ensure consistency, clarity, and accuracy of phrasing in relation to purchase bus passes, and school catchment areas and transport entitlement.