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Transport services for vulnerable adults disrupted as children return to school in September

Posted on - 23rd August, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Health, People, Preston News, Transport
Dean enjoying a sunny day out
Dean enjoying a sunny day out. Pic: Patricia Varty

Lancashire County Council is looking at ways to continue to provide transport for vulnerable adults, when schools go back in September.

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Many adults with disabilities have relied on LCC transport to travel to and from day care centres and educational facilities in recent weeks.

However increased demand and a statutory obligation for the council to provide transport for disabled children has left the council unable to guarantee transport for adult service users in September.

One Preston mother was furious after she was told she would lose access to Lancashire County Council transport for her son but has gained it back after the centre stepped in to offer transport.

Patricia Varty, relies on Lancashire County Council’s supplied transport for her son, who is 27 and suffers from high functioning autism, to get to Autism Initiatives in Blackpool which is an important part of the families life and Dean’s routine.

On Tuesday Patricia found out she would no longer have access to County Council supplied transport for her son from Friday 28th August and that the original proposal was that he would be able to go to the centre during the school holidays.

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After the sudden change in which Dean’s transport was organised, Patricia said: “Bristol Avenue [Autism Initiatives] will be taking my son to the centre and bring him home. Times have to be sorted next week.

“Hopefully it will only be till October 28th then normal transport should resume so I’m hoping then all goes back to normal.”

The decision to cut services has has now been changed for some, like Patricia and her son Dean, as the Council are looking to alternative forms of transport, including using transport from facilities which disabled adults and elderly residents visit.

After finding out she would lose her current transport, she said: “As you can imagine I was extremely angry about this as he’s just gone back, his strict routine will go now which is something he relies on all the time.

“My son is non-verbal and no communication skills at all no understanding why he didn’t go to centre during lock down so how can I make him understand now?”

“He’s only just gone back in the last couple weeks. He started off with two days and worked up slowly back to 5.”

Dean and his mother Patricia
Dean and his mother Patricia. Pic: Patricia Varty

Lancashire County Council have said that the transport has been moved for school students who the council have a legal obligation to ensure the children can get to school each day.

For parents of disabled adults who use the transport for their children to get to education facilities, this was a huge blow as they are set to lose transport during the school term times.

“Bristol Avenue [Autism Initiatives] phoned us this morning [Tuesday, August 19] telling us from Friday 28th August all transport from LCC is being withdrawn so basically my son can’t get to the centre,” Patricia added

“When speaking to transport and travel care I was told not only my son that will be affected but every disabled adult and elderly person that uses LCC transport.”

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Since facilities were informed of the loss of transport, the council has now made a U-turn and are looking to organise drivers for facilities which have access to transport, to ensure more people are getting the service they need.

This situation however brought a lot of unnecessary stress for Patricia who didn’t know how she would be able to take Dean up to Blackpool.

“Hopefully an alternative solution is being looked at and we will hear back in 48 hours. She didn’t say what it was but did say she had spoken to Autism Initiatives at Blackpool.

“For somebody that said yesterday there wouldn’t be transport for 8 weeks, to do a U-turn is quite surprising.”

Patricia contacted County Councillor Geoff Driver CBE and County Councillor Jennifer Mein about her situation before the solution was proposed.

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County Councillor Keith Iddon, deputy leader and cabinet member for highways and transport for Lancashire County Council, said: “We have provided transport to and from support groups for adults with autism and other disabilities over the summer holidays.

“However, the first call on our vehicle fleet from September must be to provide school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities, as this is our statutory duty during term time.

“There will be extra pressure on the fleet this year due to the need to use all our available vehicles to support suitable passenger numbers and ensure we provide the safest service we can to transport children with special educational needs and disabilities to and from school.

“We have kept in contact with adults who use our transport to inform them that this service will be affected when the schools reopen. We would ask anyone who is concerned to bear with us as schools reopen.  As things settle down we hope to be able to resume the services we usually provide.”

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Have you been affected by the loss of transport? Do you think children getting back to school needs to be the priority? Let us know in the comments

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