Taxi drops off severely disabled man at wrong venue

THE family of a severely disabled man who is unable to speak have blasted a taxi company after he was dropped off outside the wrong venue '“ and left there.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 8:56 am
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2016, 9:58 am
Louise McKenzie and her son Stephen at the Inch Community Education Centre, where he was left by a taxi driver. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Steven McKenzie, from Tranent, was supposed to be taken to Teens Plus – a service for young adults with complex and severe communication needs – on Ravenscroft Street on Tuesday morning.

But a mix-up saw the 21-year-old instead dropped off outside Inch Community Centre, where the service was based until six months ago.

The driver – from cab firm AC’s Taxis – then drove off without checking to see that staff were there to meet Mr McKenzie, who has Down’s syndrome and autism, and struggles to communicate.

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Mr McKenzie’s mum Louise yesterday blasted the company, which has a contract with East Lothian Council to transport adult service users, and said her son had been left abandoned for around 40 minutes.

The 45-year-old said: “They don’t seem to have any respect for anybody with special needs. He is a vulnerable adult and they put him in a really dangerous position. Do you know what bothers me the most? They have not even had the decency to phone up and say sorry.”

Staff from Teens Plus rushed out to look for Mr McKenzie when he failed to turn up as expected – and eventually spotted him at a bus stop on Gilmerton Road.

Project manager Tom Ritchie said: “It does not bear thinking about what potentially could have happened. They should never have dropped him on his own without ensuring there was somebody in the building who could come to meet him.”

East Lothian Council confirmed they had now ripped up the current contract for transporting Mr McKenzie to Teens Plus.

A spokeswoman said: “As soon as we were alerted about this, we took immediate steps to investigate the incident. As a result, we have cancelled the current contract for transporting the young person to Teens Plus.

“Colleagues in social work and transportation are currently reviewing procedures – the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable service-users is paramount. Training is provided for taxi firms, focusing on understanding and supporting people who have learning or physical disabilities. This has been well attended and well received.”

Robert Campbell, a partner at AC’s Taxis, insisted the incident was the result of a fault with the internal system that tells drivers where to drop off passengers.

He said the taxi driver was made aware of his mistake within ten minutes of leaving Inch Community Centre and immediately went back to find Mr McKenzie – but by that time he had left the site. He added: “[The driver] was in Inch Park looking for Steven until we could confirm he was safe. When he was safe and well, his mum phoned to raise her concerns and we would have apologised. We are just thankful that Steven is safe.”