Overcoming misconceptions about personal travel budgets

A boy in a wheelchair being pushed towards a car

Families often assume personal travel budgets (PTBs) can only be spent on direct travel costs. In reality, they can also cover other expenses, but sometimes council officers need to step in to explain.

The school transport planning team at Swindon Borough Council supports around 900 SEN children. One young man found the journey difficult, despite travelling in a single occupancy taxi. As a result, his behaviour was often difficult to manage during the journey. It got to the point that the taxi driver refused to take him.

The mother was distraught. She has three children at different schools and couldn’t be in three places at once. What was she supposed to do?

Exploring options with the family

Kerry Cope, Team Leader In the Travel North Hub at Swindon Borough Council worked closely with the mother to explore options.

Looking at things more closely, the middle child who was 13 could walk themselves to school. However, the youngest was still at primary school and did need accompanying to school. “I can’t be in two places at once.”

Kerry discovered that the primary school had a breakfast club. Perhaps the personal travel budget could pay for the youngest child to got to breakfast club, so mum could drop the statemented boy to school herself?

Personal travel budgets can cover more than direct travel costs

The suggestion of using the personal travel budget to pay for childcare for her youngest child surprised the mother. “Breakfast club isn’t a travel cost” she said. But Kerry reassured her that the personal travel budget doesn’t have to spent on exclusively on travel costs.

Personal travel budgets (PTBs) often have a mileage element, but they can cover other expenses too. Indeed, PTBs be used to cover any legitimate cost that enables the parent (or carer) to provide transport for their SEN child to get to school. In this case, breakfast club for her youngest child. The restriction is that the recipient family cannot receive more than the cost (i.e. cannot make a profit).

Working brilliantly for everyone

The arrangement works brilliantly for everyone. The young man is more relaxed about going to school and during his journey. In turn, this means mornings are calmer for the whole family unit.

Why am I telling you this?

As the national shortage of drivers (and passenger assistants) available for home-to-school transport continues, many councils are looking to personal travel budgets as a way to meet the shortfall.

PTBs are not a suitable option for all situations but, sometimes the name, ‘personal travel budget’, causes families to discount it before they’ve considered it. Taking the time to talk with families and understand their challenges can make all the difference.