Independent travel training

Within West Sussex, 2000 children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who have an EHCP receive travel assistance.

Independent travel training teaches the basic skills to enable your child or young person to start travelling within their local community with increasing independence.

For most people this means a gradual increase of independence over a journey or route with support mainly from either parents, carers or sometimes teachers.

Travel training initially includes teaching young people to walk specific routes to where they want to go, such as shops, colleges, travelling by bus, train, walking or cycling. Some modes of transport may be more applicable than others, depending on the individual or where you live. Ultimately, the aim is to transfer skills learned from a specific journey to all situations in the community.

The benefits to parents and carers are:

  • Increased opportunities to enjoy their own leisure time
  • Increased chances of working
  • Decrease in constant caring role
  • Increased chances of a child or young person being able to participate in the local community, live independently and possibly have access to employment
  • Potential of less reliance on Adult Services in the future.

Frequently asked questions about independent travel training

    • Young people who have had travel training may find the increased independence gives them improved self-esteem and confidence.
    • They will be less reliant on parents and carers to take them to places. This again will increase confidence and opportunities.
    • Greater opportunities to participate in social activities, such as sports, Guides, Scouts or youth activities.
    • More likely to find themselves paid work or volunteering opportunities in the future.
    • Increased chances of living independently.
    • Potential increased health benefits.
    • Promotes equality of opportunity and independence.
  • This is an individual decision based on circumstances and the needs of the child/young person. Generally the earlier the training starts the better, given that it can take years to practice and to embed the procedures. Some children may never travel independently, but the aim would to possibly be more independent than before, such as being able to walk a familiar route.

    If not started before, the ideal time is Year 10 during the transition phase, as once the young person leaves school at the end of Yr 11 the rules for Post-16 transport change.

    An application needs to be made for those who need any form of travel assistance. A Post-16 contribution, which can vary annually, will have to be be paid - unless the family has a low income and if a student is eligible under the Post-16 Transport policy.

  • Here are some basic ideas and suggestions to start with, which can be done at any age:

    • Encourage your child to think independently about what they need for any occasion before leaving the house, such as a coat, bag, money or keys.
    • Teach money handling skills when you both go to the shops.
    • Encourage your child to speak to or point out other authority figures when out in the community, for example the Police.

    Community Support Officers (who have often been in schools), adults in the ticket office at stations, train stations and point out which adults could help them in the future. Increasing communication skills will assist your child across all scenarios.

    • Encourage your child to start buying their own ticket, with supervision, at self-service machines at train and bus stations for example, when you travel together.
    • Try a day trip on public transport. (ideas are below of how to do that.)
    • Walk around your community, to the park, shops etc. Talk about safe places to cross and explain how to use a pedestrian and zebra crossing.
    • Try to teach telling the time in both analogue and digital format as public places may have either.
    • Apply for communication cards which are often available from specific charities such as the National Autistic Society.

    These can be handed out if your child becomes uncomfortable in a public place. They often state the child’s difficulties, such as autism or communication difficulties, whether they may require assistance and if being left alone alters their behaviour while in public.

    A parent/carer could:

    • wait outside a school door at the end of the day, rather than go in
    • wait at the school gate at the end of the day to allow the child to walk the distance themselves
    • gradually stay further back at the beginning and end of the school day to allow entry and exit into/out of school independently.

    Once your child can use a phone, perhaps encourage them to undertake a small journey and text you when they are there - reassurance for both of you! This could be a trip to the local shops to spend pocket money, for example.

    If they are in a taxi or minibus they could be met at the end of the road, for instance, or in some cases students are capable of letting themselves into a house.

  • Buses

    You can apply for the Disabled Person’s Bus Pass and submit the necessary evidence, which allows the child/young person to travel for free throughout West Sussex, at all times, including holidays and weekends.

    You can also apply for a Companion Pass at the same time to allow somebody to escort your child or young person and to teach the basics of travelling. Evidence that a companion is required will have to be submitted and the pass can only be used when accompanying the Young Person.

    Stagecoach have a smartphone App which gives live journey times and the ability to purchase tickets. It shows in minutes when a bus is due, where the next stop is, which can help reduce travel anxiety.

    Helping Hand cards are also advertised from the main bus companies for free. The cards include signs such as ‘Please tell me which bus stop to get off at', or ‘Please give me time to sit down before you move'. The idea is to show the driver when get on the bus.

    The links below show the Journey Assistance cards that can be used. Journey planners are also on the main websites.

    Travelling by train

    A Disabled Person’s Railcard is also available. This will give one-third off the cost of rail travel and can be purchased for £20 for one year. There are usually special offers on regarding family and group travel too.

    Southern Railway’s support whilst you're travelling web page provides information on how to get support from Southern Railway employees and features useful guides, apps and schemes.

  • There is a good network of public transport available within West Sussex and you can find out different ways of doing the same journey by using a journey planner.

    The websites linked below enable you to enter the start and end point of a journey and will give travel options for car, walking, train, bus or cycling, or a combination of them.

    They will give timings of trains and buses (plus the number of the bus) and estimated times for walking, so you can get a full journey plan.

  • Yes you can. You could always check with your Social Worker who could advise you on how to do this.

    Direct payments and Personal budgets can also be used as long as the personal budget is supporting the aims of the EHCP.

    If you have queries and/or receive mid to low disability living allowance (DLA), you can ask for advice by emailing:

    Why not ask your PA to:

    • walk
    • take a bus
    • go on a train
    • practice a route to school or college with your child?

    If they are both going on a cinema trip for example, then why not walk or use public transport rather than going in the PA’s car?

Examples of success stories

Independent transport to college

“My daughter has additional needs, a learning delay and traits of Autism and a medical condition of Neuropathic Bladder. I applied for transport to college, as she had been granted transport to school. I was offered a taxi, home to college and back for which I was grateful but I felt it would not help her learn an important life skill. I contacted you and explained this and was granted a train pass. We had a few practices and when the day came she went for it, although I arranged for a friend's son to travel with her on first day and another friend's daughter the second. I was more nervous than when she started primary school and peered through railings at the train station with tears in my eyes. I am so pleased to say she has mastered this quite quickly even connecting trains. It has taken many months for me to relax a bit and many grey hairs. I am so pleased for her and very grateful to you for letting her have this chance. She has lost items and had some returned, so I am grateful to station staff too.” West Sussex parent.

Crawley College worked in partnership with Southern Rail to trial a 'Try a Train Day'

"There were nine students in total to trial this new scheme and it was a fantastic success. The two groups completed the same journey over two mornings, comprising of a change to help them understand this process and stretch and challenge their abilities.

"We had a stop in Haywards Heath for a drink and the students were commenting on how much they were enjoying the process. We already have a waiting list for the next travel training session we will deliver in the future" - Quote from staff member at Crawley College

Supported apprenticeship programme

Alan Sealby was taken on a supported apprenticeship programme through Chichester College and has since been offered a paid job. He learnt to travel independently, which enabled him to travel to his first paid job with an organisation.

“I can take my mum and dad to different places - “I can get the train.” “I’m going to save up my money and treat mum and dad.”