Coventry & Warwickshire

Student with autism wrongly refused travel help by council

Amir Siddiqui Image copyright Mehmood Siddiqui
Image caption Amir Siddiqui, now 20, is severely autistic, non-verbal and cannot drive or travel unsupervised

A student with autism was wrongly refused assistance to get to college, an ombudsman has found.

Coventry City Council breached government guidelines by not assisting Amir Siddiqui, it said.

The Siddiqui's application was turned down because the family had a Motability car, but the ombudsman said this did not mean the car had to be used to take him to college.

The council said it had accepted the findings and amended its policy.

Amir's parents applied for their son to receive assistance with travel to Hereward College, a national college for young people with disabilities, before he started in 2018, aged 19.

The college is eight miles from his home.

Two requests were rejected on the grounds the family had a Motability car and the council would only provide travel in "exceptional circumstances". But the family said as foster parents, they had other responsibilities and so could not easily take him to college, although they did so.

Image copyright Mehmood Siddiqui
Image caption Amir Siddiqui with mother Mandy, who said she "put her life on hold" to drive him to college

"We've continued to fight because we believe it's wrong," his mother Mandy said.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found fault with the council for:

  • Dismissing evidence provided by Mr and Mrs Siddiqui to show they could not transport their son to college
  • Using the wording "exceptional circumstances" in its policy for post-19 adults, a non-statutory term
  • Not considering a suitable alternative travel arrangement for Amir
  • Omitting full details of how to appeal against a transport decision in its policy statement
  • Failing to minute a review of Amir's case in October 2018 to evidence the specific reasons for refusal

The council was given four weeks to retake its decision and to apologise to and reimburse Mr and Mrs Siddiqui.

It has also been directed to bring its post-19 transport policy in line with government guidance and introduce a "fair and transparent" appeals process.

A council spokesperson said it accepted the findings and had changed its stance over adults using Motability scheme cars to travel to college.

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