The announcement that free travel for under 18s is being scrapped has been widely criticised, with people arguing it will hit the poor the hardest and have a disproportionate impact on the BAME community.
The change is being made as part of a government bailout to Transport for London, with measures that also include increasing the congestion charge, raising fares and halting free travel for the over 60s.
Sadiq Khan has slammed the arrangement, explaining that the deal needed to be done and that ‘it was the only deal the Government put on the table’.
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However, not all under 18s will have to start paying for travel – some are entitled to it under national legislation.
This means that rather than TfL footing the bill for the free travel the costs will have to be covered by local councils – something that has created uproar.
According to one publication, it will costs London’s 32 borough councils £16 million to cover the costs of the free travel and it won’t be possible to have the measures in place before the next school year.
Which children will still get free travel?
Written into UK law is the condition that some children can get free transport to school, depending on circumstances such as how far the walk is, if the walk is safe, any special needs and family income.
All children between five and 16 qualify for free school transport if they go to their nearest suitable school and live at least two miles from the school if they’re under eight, or three miles if they’re eight or older.
If you get the maximum Working Tax Credit or your children are entitled to free school meals, they’ll get free school transport if they’re:
- aged eight to 11 and the school’s at least two miles away
- aged 11 to 16 and the school’s two to six miles away – as long as there are not three or more suitable schools nearer to home
- aged 11 to 16 and the school’s two to 15 miles away – if it’s their nearest school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief
Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are also entitled to free transport if they cannot walk to school because of their SEND or mobility problem, no matter how far away they live.
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Another reason your child may be able to get free travel is if there’s no safe walking route – but you have to contact your local council to tell them the route isn’t safe.
You can find full information, contact details and more of the government website.