Edinburgh father in ‘constant fear’ for epileptic daughter after Council cuts school transport

A worried father says he is in constant fear for the safety of his daughter after her school transport was cut.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 9:52 am
Ross Corry with his daughter Olivia. Picture: Submitted

Ross Corry, 36, believes Olivia, nine, who has complex additional needs, could be a danger to herself and others.

Olivia suffers epileptic seizures but lost her one-to-one escort and was told to travel on a minibus with other children.

The schoolgirl is one of many children affected by a shake-up of transport provision to special education schools in the Capital.

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Council bosses wrote to families in March stating that they had to reapply for transport assistant because of a change in providers.

Parents and guardians were told they would hear about their new allocation before the schools broke up at the end of June – but they did not receive any communication until two weeks before term started last month.

A number of children were moved from escorted transport to minibus services, with many of the appeals against the switch being rejected without explanation.

Now three weeks into the new term, dozens of families are left without what they feel is appropriate transport and are having to miss work to take the children to school themselves

Mr Corry said: “Olivia was moved on to one-to-one transport in 2017 after the council carried out an assessment and said that she was not safe to travel to school with other pupils”.

He said that this system was “working very well” for the family and they were grateful for the support service.

However, during the school holidays the family received a letter from the council explaining that Olivia’s transport would change next term.

Mr Corry said: “We got a letter through the door saying that there would be changes to Olivia’s transport and then we didn’t hear anything until the weekend before school started. After struggling to find out details, it transpired that Olivia had been changed on to group transport with three other children.

“This came as a shock to us. Olivia had been assessed by the council and they had said that she needed one-to-one transport for her own safety. I don’t understand how that could have changed when her needs and medical condition hasn’t changed.”

He continued: “Our main concern is what happens when Olivia has a seizure. If there are three other children with complex needs to look after, who will be looking after our wee girl when she needs to be closely monitored and kept safe until an ambulance arrives?

“We are also concerned about the other children’s safety, there was a reason the council decided to put her on to 1:1 transport and they have just taken it away without a proper safety assessment.”

Mr Corry, whose appeal against the decision was rejected, added: “The council rejected our appeal but they have not told us on what grounds the appeal has been rejected. We feel like it is going to take something serious, like Olivia having a seizure, for the council to take this issue seriously and we are not willing to put Olivia in that situation.”

He explained: “Currently, I’m dropping Olivia off at school and leaving work early to pick up Olivia and drop her off at after school club, then go back to work, then back to school, then back home again.

“It is not sustainable, my wife and I both have jobs, it feels like we are being pushed out of work by the transport issue and I know other families feel the same

“It really does feel like the council do not have much compassion for the difficult situation we are in. It’s a child’s right to education and she already has so many difficulties in her life.

“The system is setting our children up for failure. When Olivia arrives at school she has been emotional because of transport changes and this has resulted in her having a bad days which is then impacting on her behaviour and having a hugely negative effect on her education and development.

“The council go on about ‘getting it right’ for every child but at the moment they are getting it so wrong for so many.

“We really hoped that this term would go well for her but we are three weeks in and it’s a nightmare.”

Cllr Ian Perry, Convener for Education, Children and Families, said: “We would never jeopardise the safety of any pupils and our School Transport Risk Assessment identifies each activity from low to high and we put in place measures to ensure it is safe. When a pupil has a new way of travelling to school we always assess the plan and review it closely in terms of safety. We want to promote the independence and well-being of all children and young people through a range of travel options.

“The needs of vulnerable children are a key priority for the Council and we currently provide over 700 home to school transport arrangements for pupils in special schools. In a small number of cases the Council has received requests from parents to review the allocated transport provision. This is carried out by our Travel Allocation Panel which meets every two weeks and discusses further detailed information from parents, schools staff, social work staff and medical staff to assess the travel plan.

“We do everything we can to try and resolve any issues raised by parents as at the end of the day we want everyone to be satisfied with the arrangements put in place and ensure we have best plans in place to transport their children to and from school. We employ staff specifically to assess and resolve complex cases which involves meetings with parents, including planning meetings, and direct telephone/email contact.

“School transport applications are made before the end of the summer term so our staff have a busy summer planning routes for over 3,000 children, who have a wide variety of needs, across the whole city. We aim to give parents as much notice as we can but are happy to meet with parents, to listen to their ideas and make amendments where possible. Indeed discussions are still ongoing with some parents over their allocated plans.”