Newcastle has had a programme of independent travel training for young people with special educational needs and disabilities for several years, because we recognize that travelling independently changes people’s lives.
- Project: MyTrav
- Objectives: To help young people with SEND to travel independently
- Timescale: 2016 – present
- Cost to authority: Covered by funding from technology provider
- Number of staff working on project: All part-time: four ICT staff, five SEND transport workers, one SEND case worker and a solicitor
- Outcomes: Savings of £500,000 per year; 20% of young people with SEND able to travel independently
- Officer contact details: Julie Scotland
Many young people are keen but their parents are reluctant because they are worried they will get lost.
There’s also a significant financial challenge for the council at a time of huge cuts; we spend £3m per annum on home-to-school transport for 870 children and young people with SEND and the number of service users is growing.
We developed the MyTrav service to help more young people with SEND travel independently. The journey began when we bid successfully for funding from a technology provider in 2014.
There are three parts of the MyTrav service: the MyTrav smartphone app; the Carer Portal; and the Admin Console.
The MyTrav smartphone app, initially available for Android phones, guides the user through a journey with prompts such as photos, text and/or audio, triggered using GPS, when they are near landmarks.
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The journeys are set up by a travel trainer or by the young person’s parent or carer, so the landmarks are personalised to their needs. The user can review the journey so they become familiar with the landmarks before travelling.
During a journey, the app alerts the young person if they go off the expected route, or if they take longer than expected to reach the next landmark. They can call their emergency contacts at any time.
More journeys can be added over time as the young person becomes more experienced in travelling.
Parents and carers can see the real-time location of their child on a journey by logging onto the carer portal. This is securely accessed using two-factor authentication. The parent receives text alerts if the child doesn’t arrive when expected or goes off route.
The council’s SEN Transport team use a secure console to set up users and make any administrative changes.
We also hope to sell MyTrav to other councils in future, providing income for the council.
There’s nothing like MyTrav to help people travel independently; it is really unique.
We worked in a participative way throughout the project with service users and their parents and teachers. We held focus groups to understand what they wanted and how important independent travel was for increasing their life choices.
Based on their feedback, we developed MyTrav to meet the following objectives:
- · Provide support that doesn’t make children and young people with SEND stand out from the crowd
- · Instant connection to support when it’s needed during a journey
- · Safety net and peace of mind for parents and carers
- · An intuitive solution designed around user needs
- · A flexible solution which grows as the traveller increases in confidence.
We’ve been trialling MyTrav with a range of stakeholders including young people with SEND, parents and independent travel trainers. The response is very positive. For example, in summer 2016, one service user with a learning disability and a visual impairment used MyTrav to familiarise himself with a number of journeys. He became confident and competent using MyTrav, and his mother is now letting him travel to town independently without even using MyTrav which is something she wouldn’t do before. As a result, he’s secured a full-time job working in the retail sector.
The ability to travel independently changes people’s lives and opens up a wider world of opportunity – we know children and young people with SEND who are supported to travel independently have increased skills and confidence, improved educational attainment, and find it easier to access training, work and social events.
We anticipate savings of up to £500,000 per year for the council as around 20% of young people with SEND will be able to travel independently instead of using council-provided minibuses and taxis.
We know that the cost of lifetime support packages for adults with learning disabilities is significantly lower for people who can travel, work and live independently and they face less social isolation. So there is a strong argument that MyTrav also helps reduce future financial pressures for the council and improves quality of life.
Julie Scotland, manager, MyTrav Service, Newcastle City Council