Green Party Reality Check Over Transport For Special Needs Children
Throughout this week, families with children who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilties (SEND), have been struggling where transport provided by local authority Sefton MBC is required, in order to get their children from home to school and back again. One parent described the situation by saying ‘To see dozens of parents relaying the horrendous experiences of their children, caused by what can only be described as the catastrophic incompetence of Sefton transport service is shocking.’ Another parent also pointed out, that it wasn’t just one school affected, by mentioning that ‘Six students at Peterhouse School were left without transport on Monday.’
Rick Furness, also a parent of children with Special Educational Needs, and a Green Party campaigner working in Southport says, ‘This situation is still ongoing from what I can see, and what is worse, parents saw these problems coming, and tried everything they could before the start of term to rectify them. Personally, I don’t currently need the transport provision for my children, however many families do, and without it in some cases, it is almost impossible to get their children into school on time.’ Parents agreed that things had not yet improved in many cases, with one stating ‘This issue has still not been sorted for my daughter, I am fuming!’ and another pointing out ‘The lack of communication from SEN transport is unacceptable.’
These problems have been reported by parents on a daily basis, and families have reported huge difficulties communicating with Sefton’s Transport team, making the problems harder to resolve. Another parent explained her difficulties ‘My child has multiple disabilities, including epilepsy. His risk assessment stated (as always) that he must have a personal assistant with epilepsy training at all times. It was not until Friday afternoon that this company got in touch and informed us he would not have a personal assistant, and no epilepsy training because his escorts are not nurses! We had unsuccessfully tried to contact Sefton for a period of 2 weeks to finalise travel arrangements and meet the new personal assistant as the risk assessment stated.’
Rick goes on to say, ‘What I have seen and heard from many parents and carers this week, is nothing short of heart-breaking. In my opinion, this is yet another appalling situation imposed on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. As usual, the consequences are often catastrophic for children and their families here in Southport and across the borough, and the lack of organisation over this matter, is simply excused with beaurocratic reasoning. Then to top things off, I have seen apologies for the ‘inconvenience’ from Sefton Council reported. This is not simply an inconvenience, and to use that term, in my opinion minimises the issue. In reality, for the children affected, this can be a dangerous situation, especially when left stranded at school, or it can cause severe anxiety reactions for example, which are extremely challenging for children and their families. These are just a few of the many adverse effects on children and families, and the results can be devastating.’
In contrast, one parent pointed out another problem with the transport for SEND children by saying ‘Like other kids, my son doesn’t go to school in the summer holidays but Sefton were willing to pay a taxi and PA from Southport to Liverpool and back daily, for 6 weeks during this summer despite that fact, with weekly requests being made by the council for his transport provision.’
Challenges with transport were wide spread across the borough too, with other parents saying things like ‘When my son’s bus route was put to tender and no company chose it, STU then did nothing, so up to last Friday afternoon there was no transport/company arranged, hence no way 5 children could go to school,’ and ‘My son has had transport for over 4 and half years. I was told they have a new company that has taken over. So yet another new escort plus taxi company, that have not turned up to collect him from home or school since term started! He is very unsettled by it all.’
Commending teachers, parents and carers, Rick says ‘I have also seen truly amazing stories this week, of teachers personally transporting children when they have been left at school, other parents supporting affected families, and the parents of children with special needs risking their jobs, taking time off work at the last minute, to ensure their children make it into school. These people are to be celebrated for what they have achieved, and without them, there could have been some even more serious consequences.’ One parent specifically took time out on Monday morning, having heard nothing about her son’s transport arrangements, in order to ensure her son got to college, and describes what happened as a result, ‘His bus arrived at the end of the day, but the escort refused to take him as he’d been ” taken off the list as office had said he was off ” (this is because I cancelled the morning run). He stood there in front of the escort who refused him on the bus because “he was off.”. He was there in front of her but she still thought he was off. She left him behind saying another bus was on its way (which of course it wasn’t). I had to go back again and he finally got home at 6.50 pm!’
The Green Party have now said ‘This situation cannot be allowed to continue, and transport for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilties, must be suitably and appropriately arranged by Sefton MBC in a timely manner in future. The current problems must also be fixed as soon as possible. Likewise, allowances must be made for the specific and individual needs of children using the service, rather than just dropping them into inadequate provisions, especially where risk assessments are concerned. What has happened this week could have been avoided, and the lack of communication has seemingly been appalling’.
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