A change has been agreed to Swindon Borough Council’s provision of transport to school for children with special needs and disabilities.

Although bosses at Euclid Street say it’s not so much a change as merely enforcing the authority’s current policy; it does look like more restrictions will come in for parents with children with such needs.

A report to the Conservative cabinet by the member for children’s services Coun Mary Martin said the council already had a policy that parents are expected to take their children to school if they are under eight years of age and live within two miles of school. That distance increases to three miles for children over the age of eight.

But at the moment, it said, the policy wasn’t being applied. After a review of cases of children receiving transport to school last summer: “It would appear that custom and practice assumes that because a child has an education and health care plan they should receive transport to school despite the mileage eligibility rule.

“There was little evidence in the files that there was any degree of assessment of whether a child needed transport to school.”

Coun Martin presented two options to the members - one that all parents who felt they were eligible for the provision of transport should apply, and one that those already receiving transport from the council should carry on, but when a child starts school or moves to a new school, then they would have to apply - and the eligibility rules would be applied.

She said: “The recommendation is that we don’t make changes for those children already “in flight” receiving transport. The policy should be applied when children move on to their next school, or for those starting at school.”

At the moment the council spends about £530,000 on providing transport to schools for children with special needs - usually using minibuses or taxis.The new policy may make a saving of £125,000.

Sarah Purnell who founded Koalas Opportunity Group for parents with children with learning difficulties and the Swindon Interactive Arts Service for adults with learning difficulties said: “This seems disappointing. When my daughter Caroline was young, 20 years ago, the provision was really good - but this seems to be downgrading it.”

A council spokesman said: “A key driver behind this change in approach is to promote independence and independent living. The expectation would be that a child or young person should get to school independently or with their parents or carers depending on their age, unless this wasn’t possible due to their special educational need or disability.

“Like most local authorities across the country we are facing tough financial challenges and it is anticipated that this policy will result in a substantial saving of more than £100,000. We are confident that the service will still be run to a high standard for those who need it.”