Councils are putting foster children at a disadvantage compared to their peers when it comes to school transport, ombudsman says.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) found Warwickshire CC told foster carers whose children had to attend schools beyond statutory walking distance that they must pay for school transport out of the fostering allowance despite the children being entitled to free school transport.
Using the fostering allowance in this way meant those children received less support than foster children who live closer to their school, the LGO said.
They were also being treated differently to children who live with their birth families and attend schools beyond statutory walking distance, who would have free transport.
‘For many foster children, who have often had a turbulent start in life, councils sometimes decide it is important they maintain the stability of attending the same school regardless of where they are living,’ said LGO Michael King.
‘The children and their foster carers living further away should not be penalised for this.
‘I am aware there are a number of other councils across the country taking the same incorrect approach as Warwickshire. I will be writing to those I have identified to make them aware of these findings.’
‘I am pleased that by the end of the investigation Warwickshire County Council accepted its policy was wrong,’ Mr King continued.
‘I would now urge others to check their own policies as a matter of urgency to ensure they are treating fosters carers, and the children they look after, fairly when it comes to school transport.’
Warwickshire CC has agreed to apologise to the carers and reimburse them for the period they transported the child to school.