Autism Together’s response to Local Government Ombudsman decision
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has ruled that Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council should reconsider four cases in which disabled children were found to be no-longer eligible for specialist school transport.
The families of the four children involved had previously appealed to Wirral council and provided evidence supporting their children’s eligibility for transport.
However, in three cases the council refused to provide transport, and in one case it changed the transport it offered, despite none of the children’s circumstances changing from when the council had provided support.
Head of children and family services at Autism Together, Steve Vasey, said:
“We welcome the Local Government Ombudsman’s decision. The issue of school transport for children on the autistic spectrum is a constant source of frustration, disappointment and stress for many of the families we support.
The common theme when talking with families is the ongoing failure of those people charged with making the decisions about eligibility to fully accept the complexities of autism and the significant difficulties children, young people and adults can have in navigating their environment safely.
The fact that someone ‘can walk’ or ‘has no apparent mobility problems’ doesn’t automatically mean that they do so safely or with regard to their own wellbeing or that of others. The fact that someone can ‘get a local bus to school’ negates the incredible stress that the person may experience during that journey or the incredible worry that a parent has for the safety of their child.
In the last few years, we have been aware of these cases:
- Children who will fall to the floor irrespective of where they are, when overloaded with information or sensory stimuli. This has included busy roads and junctions when going to school or accessing local amenities.
- Children who will run, without any warning, into traffic or across roads despite the best efforts of parents to manage the situation.
- Children who will hurt themselves or other family members due to the increased pressures associated with the ‘morning routine.’
- School avoidance, not because of activities at school but solely due to the pressures that accessing public transport causes the individuals.
In this time of austerity and restructuring of services, it again appears that the most vulnerable are proving to be the easy target. To dismiss or deny access to appropriate, safe transport to those most vulnerable on the basis of ill-informed or misjudged opinion should rightly be challenged.
Read the full Ombudsman’s report here