It’s one final blow for Eastbourne teenager, Billy Forse, as he is once again refused help to get to and from college.
16-year-old Billy, is severely disabled and is the only person in the world, known to have the condition, which is caused by the absence of half a chromosome. Billy relies on others to help him to live his daily life and needs specialist transport and an escort to get to school every day.
However, despite an appeal, an intervention by the ombudsman and a second appeal hearing, East Sussex County Council are sticking by their original decision and say that Billy doesn’t qualify for exceptional circumstances to receive the transport from the state. Once a child turns 16, the authority is no longer obliged to help them to get to school or college.
Billy’s mum, Leanna, is distraught at the council’s decision and is now taking time to consider her options. Leanna, who herself is a teacher, now faces a strong possibility of having to quit her work, so that she can take Billy to school herself. Since September, Leanna has been paying for the transport herself, which is £500 a month she can no longer afford.
Rebecca Whippy from the charity Embrace East Sussex, has been supporting Leanna and Billy throughout the proceedings told Eastbourne Buzz, “Sadly, I’m not surprised at County Hall’s decision. This is another case of money ahead of people. For me this isn’t over and I shall continue to support Leanna and Billy to help them to find a suitable outcome.”
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell has told Eastbourne Buzz she "couldn't be more disappointed" in the outcome for Billy and Leanna.
Councillor David Tutt, Leader of the LibDem group at County Hall said, "I am ashamed of the County Council and believe that they have failed a very vulnerable member of our community."
Former Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd is furious at the decision, "I am profoundly disappointed at this decision. It appears the county council are saying that as Leanna is working - she has a job as a teacher - She should find the £500 a month or so to pay for Billy's school transport. Whilst the reality is that a teacher’s wages will not sustain another £500 every month but that if she was unemployed the funding would be available! I think East Sussex County Council are simply wrong in their decision. It would be appalling for Leanna to remove Billy from the school life that he loves and it would be equally appalling for Leanna, a dedicated teacher, to leave her job so that her son can continue to receive an education. What a dreadful choice for a parent to be presented with. I urge County Hall, even at this late stage, to do the right thing and fund Billy's school transport."