Northampton MP backs parents of disabled children in fight to stop school transport changes
The MP for Northampton South has met with parents who are fighting Northamptonshire County Council's decision to make SEND children walk a mile to catch the school bus.
Andrew Lewer MP for Northampton South has called the decision to make children walk one mile to the bus stop "ill-concieved" and "badly planned" in a letter to the parents of the children affected and councillor Julie Davenport who has been helping their campaign.
He said: "This pilot was ill-concieved, badly planned and certainly not in the interests of the children, nor their parents.
"It is greatly apparently that the drive behind this policy is primarily about saving money and certainly not about fostering greater independance."
The county council has called the scheme, it was set to introduce to parents and children on November 4, 'pick up and set down points'.
The initiative would mean children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) - who currently get picked up by a minibus or taxi from their homes - might instead have to walk one mile to be picked up from an unknown bus stop instead.
On Friday, the county council paused their plans until Spring after pressure has been mounting on them by this newspaper and campaigners.
After meeting with councillor Davenport (Ind, Briar Hill and Delapre) and some of the affected parents and children on Friday, Mr Lewer added: "They are inspirational parents, motivated for what is right for their children.
"To that end, they have my full support."
The new scheme will be rolled out to selected children who attend the Beehive Centre and Northgate School Arts College
Jaime Shellard, whose daughter Ruby will be affected by the change, said: "Well while I am very pleased that NCC have decided to stop their plan from rolling out on the 4th of November, the wording of the letter leads me to believe that they will roll it out on the in April, regardless.
"While I think that pick up points may be suitable for some students of Northgate and the Beehive, I don’t believe they are suitable for all. I think that NCC need to seriously question whether it is really necessary at all."
Jaime's daughter is not entitled to free transport and her mum has to pay £600 per year for her to get to school.
She added: "I am not sure that NCC fully understand that disability doesn’t just involve being able to walk.
"My daughter can walk but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, it also doesn’t stop her from having Down Syndrome, congenital heart disease, an autoimmune disease, a kidney disorder, glue ear or needing to wear orthotic boots.
"She receives high rate PIP for care and getting around so it will be interesting to see how the council will conduct their suitability assessments."