Nick Clegg backs Katie Price: 'Free access to education for disabled children is universal'

The deputy prime minister said an individual case should not be used to discredit the system

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The Independent Online

Nick Clegg has defended Katie Price in the row over whether or not school transport for her disabled son should be paid for by a local authority.

The model and businesswoman, who is a multi-millionaire, has been criticised after revealing that the cost of her son Harvey's transport to and from school was paid for by the council, with Price estimating that it would reach £1,000 a day if she had to cover the fee.

Price was criticised for the arrangement in the Celebrity Big Brother house by the outspoken Katie Hopkins.

Clegg told LBC Radio that he was "reluctant" to use Price's case to question universal free access to education for disabled children.

"I think there is a duty on local authorities to decide, case by case, whether they help out with the costs, in this case, the education, of a disabled child and in this case clearly the approach they're taking is that should be available universally," he told Nick Ferrari.

"I so happen to think that the help we give as a society to disabled children may well be one of those areas where most people think, on balance, it is better to provide that universally...I’d be pretty reluctant to say, on the facts of this individual case, we therefore throw out the idea of universally treating all children with disabilities with the same kind of compassion everywhere we can.

"We, as a society, think there are some things that we provide universally to everybody."

Price's son, Harvey, is blind and has other disabilities such as autism and ADHD.

Responding to critics who suggest Price should move her home closer to Harvey's school, a statement from Price's team said: "The cost of the school placement together with transport is not means-tested as it is provided for the child. Local authorities do not have special needs schools locally as these have been closed during the last 15 years as it was deemed a cheaper option to transport children out of borough.

"If Harvey's school was on his doorstep as with schools for healthy children then this would not apply, but it was the Government's choice to close the special needs schools."

Clegg added: "The idea that we should instruct parents of disabled children to move house, I don't see how on Earth that would work."