Acute Transport Crisis Affecting Children with Special Needs - Brolly
Aontú Education Spokesperson Gemma Brolly has written to the minister for Infrastructure requesting a review of transport arrangements to educational settings as a matter of urgency, particularly regarding children and young people with Special Educational Needs.
“The educational transport crisis is certainly not new but it is most definitely ongoing with no likelihood of improvement. I have spoken to many constituents in the past few months who are simply trying to ensure their children travel safely to school, accessing their education as is their fundamental human right. This is not happening and it simply is not good enough” begins Aontú Education spokesperson, Gemma Brolly.
“Firstly, I would like to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to those within the Transport Section of the Education Authority who have been working extremely hard to accommodate the needs of so many but are left in impossible situations, situations where the demand outweighs the supply. Having spoken to both transport providers and Transport Authority employees, I am particularly aware of the lack of available Taxi licensed drivers in general. At the end of the last quarter of 2016/17 there were a total of 12,255 Taxi Driver Licenses recorded, at the end of the last quarter of 2020/21 there were only 8,781 Taxi Drivers Licenses recorded. We have almost one third less licensed taxi drivers available yet we have 11,429 more children in education, with 1,147 more children attending ‘other schools’ such as special schools.
A similar pattern exists with Taxi Operator Licences where at the end of the last quarter of 2016/17 a total of 1,694 Taxi operator Licences were recorded, yet at the end of the last quarter of 2020/21 only 1,276 – one quarter less taxi operators available yet more children attending school.”
Ms Brolly continues “In an effort to improve this crisis, the previous Minister for Infrastructure implemented various measures such as free taximeter tests or drivers and operators up until February 2022 and financial support to cover DVA fees for new drivers who obtained their taxi driver and vehicle licence from April 2021 to March 2022. This same situation continues however and these measures have since ceased. I have written to the current Minister of Infrastructure Mr John O’Dowd to not only implement these measures again but to review the current state of provision of educational transport which is no longer fit for purpose” states Ms Brolly.
“I have spoken to mothers recently, desperate for provision of transport to take their children to and from school. Some have had to either reduce their working hours, turn down work or stop working all together just so their child can access their education. This is hugely concerning in the current economic climate. I have spoken to one mother of a young person with special educational needs who has been trying for two years now to obtain transport to a special school for her child, as she has three other children who also must be in their educational setting at the same time. The tender has been issued at least 5 times to no avail. We must incentivise more people to come forward to fill these roles by ensuring appropriate measures are in place to ensure a fair wage and reward commitment and effort.”
Ms Brolly concludes, “This is heart-breaking. These parents need support and we in Aontú will continue to work to improve such vital elements of everyday life as this, simply access to education. The current situation is not good enough. Our young people and their parents deserve so much better.”