Radio Sandwell Local News

Council spends £233,000 a month on taxis for children

2012-12-22 23:05:21

Taxi

Dudley Council is holding a consultation with its residents on a range of Council Tax increases.

Those who oppose a Council Tax increase are only allowed to have their views registered if they say they support cutting "key services." They are given a strong message that such an option would inflict terrible harm on residents.

Rather than waste time on such a rigged exercise I suggest the people of Dudley look at another section of their Council's website. Let's look through their procurement spending for October. Then let's look at just one category of spending from one department.

Children's and Education Services spent £233,342 on taxis - (totting up the items I could spot.) That went on taking children to and from school. Some was for disabled children but substantial amounts (marked "mainstream") was for able bodied children. Usually these will be children in care known as "Looked After Children."

If you talk to children in care you find they don't regard having a taxi to pick them up from school as a treat. It marks them out as different. It creates a stigma. Their school mates ask why a taxi picks them up from school.

If you talk to foster carers you find that often they would be willing to pick children up for school - in the way that parents do. Sometimes there will be difficulties where a child is at school far away from their home with their foster carer - but that is just another reason why councils should seek to avoid such unsuitable placements.

Furthermore there is routinely an escort employed to join the child in the taxi. Often a child will have someone they have never met before picking them up from school. This is to check they actually get into the taxi and make it back. So while other children chat to their parents about their day on their way home from primary school these "Looked After Children" are allocated a stranger.

I can't find the costings for these escorts in Dudley Council figures but I suspects it more than doubles the cost. So instead of being a bit under £2 million a year (allowing for holidays) it probably comes to pushing £4 million a year. That is equivalent to 4% of the Dudley's Council Tax revenue. Much of that money is for children who don't want or need the service which they feel stigmatises them.

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