Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - School Transport Services.

84.

asked the Minister for Education if he will make arrangements that the two-mile qualification for school transport will apply to all children attending primary schools.

To implement this proposal would add very considerably to the cost of the school transport service which is already very high. The answer, therefore, must be that I am not in a position to make such arrangements in present circumstances.

The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that under the existing regulations this qualification is creating hardship for children, is being criticised by the parents and is causing embarrassment to the Department. In view of this qualification dividing young families who have one child walking while the other can take a bus would the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that for purely humanitarian reasons serious consideration should be given to this matter?

If we had unlimited funds available to us that would be a very desirable concession to introduce. The school transport service is costing a very considerable amount of money. In the financial year 1973-74 it cost £5 million and even the smallest adjustment in the terms of the scheme results in quite surprising increases in its overall costs. I feel our priorities should be to improve the provisions in the school for the children rather than in the transport service as such.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary any estimate of the cost of Deputy Ryan's suggestion?

If the Deputy puts down a separate question I will give him the information.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary send me that information by post?

I will, if I have it.

85.

asked the Minister for Education if he will provide door-to-door transport for pupils attending special schools.

Every effort is made in the case of handicapped children to collect them at their homes. Because of the extensive catchment areas involved it is sometimes necessary, however, to request pupils living nearer the school to join the service at a convenient pick-up point. This arrangement enables the overall travelling time in the bus for those living at the greater distances to be kept within a reasonable limit.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary not consider making some provision for persons who are attending special schools and are handicapped to such a degree that they find movement difficult? Expecting them to arrive at some special pick-up point is expecting too much of these people and is placing a great burden and strain on these persons and their families.

If cases are brought to the Department's attention where, as the Deputy has stated, children find movement very difficult every endeavour will be, and has been, made to accommodate them specially.