Agenda item


To receive an update on what progress has been made against the recommendations made in December 2022 by the Select Committee, the Learning Review and Family Voice Surrey, and what changes have been made to enhance the customer experience for September 2023.



Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families and Learning

Michael Smith, Temporary Senior Responsible Officer for Home to School Transport Improvement

Gerry Hughes, H2STA Service Manager

Leanne Henderson, Family Voice Surrey Participation Manager


Key points made in the discussion:

  1. Family Voice Surrey (FVS) noted the heartening progress made and said its impact would be felt after summer, when they would run another survey. They were pleased to have assurance families would not be forced to accept an Independent Travel Allowance (ITA) in lieu of transport being provided. They confirmed families in receipt of the ITA had been reimbursed for the other leg of a return journey, and considered this a great success. Key stage transfer letters were much improved this year with a clear flowchart showing how to apply. FVS had received much fewer emails from families having difficulties with outstanding payments. Not all parent carers felt communication had improved. FVS were disappointed the first payment could not be made before October; the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning explained it was a reimbursement scheme in case there had been any absences, but there was an emergency allowance scheme.


  1. Asked to identify where problems lie, the Executive Director for Children, Families and Learning said that as a shortage occupation, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) case workers had large caseloads, which in itself contributed to fluctuating retention. FVS said they would return to Committee to share their findings from a survey on the case officer role.


  1. The Cabinet Member for Education and Learning said the Service was in a much better position to deal with peak activity this year. The Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) said the Service had been restructured and additionally resourced, they had removed the need for 850 families to reapply, and had managed to reduce the year’s overspend to £12million. He confirmed the potential cost of outstanding Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) awaiting assessmentwas reflected in this year’s budget and said the £55 million budget looked sufficient.


  1. A Member asked if there would be a recurrence of the spike in demand seen in May 2022 and if financial surprises may materialise. The SRO responded they were now resourced to deal with that level of demand, though May 2023 had seen 460 applications compared to over 900 12 months before. He explained that a +/- 1% difference in inflation or forecast EHCP numbers equated to about £300,000, but rigorous monitoring would enable a prompt response in such a scenario.


  1. The Executive Director made the point that inclusive practice would enable children with SEND to attend the same school as their siblings and reduce H2STA costs.


  1. A Member asked if the Service measured if there was an adverse impact on young people when solo taxi arrangements were withdrawn. The SRO said any change in mode of transport was made with full consultation with the family and all applicants had the right to appeal. A Member queried whether the service was designed around the needs of children or led by the budget. The Cabinet Member said it complied with statutory obligations; it was their duty to meet the child’s needs and these were always considered, however they also had a duty to account for their use of public money.


  1. Asked if school coaches were used efficiently, the SRO said all demand had been met and there was spare capacity to accommodate any new movers during the year, though vehicles could be downsized mid-year to reduce unit cost. The Member queried whether parents were made aware of the existence of concessionary seats and said these should be promoted.


  1. A Member queried the need to wait for a new customer relationship management system (CRM) when the current architecture could support what they want to do. The H2STA team were working with digital discovery colleagues on the best solution.


Tanya Quddus left at 2:42 pm.


Actions/requests for further information:

  1. Senior Responsible Officer for H2STA to provide to Select Committee the number of children and young people (and percentage) with solo taxi arrangements for the last 12 months, on a month-by-month basis.



The Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee recommends:

  1. A particular focus is placed on improving communications with parents and carers, as highlighted in the update from Family Voice, during the next few months to ensure that the reassuring trend in respect of feedback on Home to School Transport is not undermined.


  1. Making an urgent priority the alignment of customer relationship management systems (CRMs) and telephony systems across the corporate contact centre, CFLL Customer Relations team and within the service teams involved in enquiry handling, and for IT to explore how this can be done under the current CRMs to avoid delay.


  1. The Senior Responsible Officer provides a further update on the performance and progress of Home to School Transport as soon as possible after the start of the September 2023 new academic year, to include the results of the joint survey with Family Voice.


Adjournment for 16 minutes while technical issue resolved. Meeting resumed at 3:08 pm.


Fiona White left at 2:53 pm. Rebecca Jennings-Evans left at 2:56 pm.

Supporting documents: