Transport changes 'paused' over disabled children walking mile for school bus in Northampton

The pause from Angel Square has come after a campaign by this newspaper.
The pause from Angel Square has come after a campaign by this newspaper.

Council chiefs have postponed disabled children walking one mile to catch a school bus until Spring - following a Chronicle & Echo campaign.

The 'initiative' meant 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.

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'.

Northamptonshire County Council said it was rolling out the initiative as part of its home to school transport policy and had been working with schools and parents involved.

But some parents whose children attend the Beehive Centre and Northgate School Arts College contested that they did not want them walking alone in the dark for one mile.

Northamptonshire County Council has now decided that more time is needed for parents to "prepare their children for the change".

Councillor Jason Smithers, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for highways and place said: “This initiative was about helping to develop independence in young people in the county and we were working with those affected to ensure any changes were as seamless as possible.

“However some concerns have been brought to our attention so it is only right that we pause this process for now to make sure we introduce the changes in a way that everyone is happy with.

“Additionally it is felt that the Spring is a better time to introduce the new initiative when the days are longer. The council will continue to work with all parties involved."

Independant councillor Julie Davenport (Delapre and Briar Hill) has been speaking out against the pilot and criticised the lack of communication between the authority and parents.

She said: "I think it’s great that people and parent power, and common sense, won out in the end.

"These parents have had to fight every step of the way to get equality for their children and the intolerable stress this has caused to parents due to very poor implementation of this scheme is totally unacceptable.

"That’s what happens when we look at the money cuts first and only think of the impacts when people start shouting about it."

The Conservative-run authority is looking for savings right across its services as it is currently predicting a £4m overspend on its overall £417m budget this year.

At this week's cabinet meeting councillor Fiona Baker, who is responsible for children’s services, said the plan ‘did not set off well’ and has now pledged that each of the children affected will be individually assessed.

READ MORE: Call for public consultation as disabled school children asked to walk mile to bus stops