Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Questions (131)

Michael McGrath

Question:

131. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some children attending ASD units in mainstream schools and that were entitled to special school transport are not receiving such transport and that Bus Éireann states it cannot get taxi companies to provide the service in certain cases; the steps that will be taken to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41024/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

Under the terms of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children with special educational needs are eligible for school transport if they are attending the nearest recognised mainstream or special school that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs under Department of Education and Skills' criteria.

Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers. When applications are approved by my Department, Bus Éireann assesses the transport options available, taking into account the individual requirements of each child.

Where children can be facilitated on an existing service, applications are processed as soon as possible and arrangements put in place with the families involved.

Where a new service has to be established there is a lead in period for this process that includes the following:

- Route design

- Procurement/tender process for each new service required

- Contract award

- Possible vetting of a new Driver

- Time period for school to source a suitable escort

In some locations such as Dublin and Cork Bus Éireann has informed my Department that they are facing challenges on occasion in finding suitable vehicles, required to meet the transport needs of individual children.

Bus Éireann are very conscious of the challenges faced by Parents awaiting Special Needs transport and are continuing to work with my Department on a daily basis to source and provide transport where possible for all outstanding applicants.

Families of children who are eligible for special educational needs school transport may avail of the Special Transport Grant towards the cost of private transport arrangements until services are finalised.