• Aisling Dempsey

Distressed parents and schoolchildren stranded by Bus Eireann’s refusal to provide bus service

Many parents in Trim are distressed because Bus Eireann have refused placements for their children.   Many parents around the county are reporting similar refusals just a couple of weeks before schools reopen after the summer holidays. The Department of Education and Bus Eireann must act.  The school bus scheme must be resourced to allow all children - particularly in rural areas - a place on the school bus.  This is another example of how rural children are disadvantaged in terms of their education.   Many parents validly are pointing out that the school bus transport process is out of date and not in the best interest of families.   Why are people applying for school bus places by an April deadline and not being notified until now, 2-3 weeks before children are returning to school?  Why do they need to pay €100 on application to then have it refunded when their application is refused last minute? Surely the cost of processing the money in and back out again would pay for many, many school bus places.  Why are children entitled to, and with a placement this year, not automatically entitled to it next year? This type of uncertainty is very stressful for parents and the system makes it impossible to work around.  It beggars belief that the Government thinks only providing 2-3 weeks is enough notice for families to make alternative arrangements.  Most hard working families will struggle to change work patterns at such short notice to facilitate the school run – if it’s even possible.  A lack of school bus transport will make it more difficult for women to re-enter the workforce and cause untold difficult for families. I have a number of families on the Rock Road, who cannot get the Dangan bus to come down their road, despite being able to demonstrate present and future demand.  The bus passes within a mile but the driver for insurance cannot deviate from the contracted route for insurance purposes.  I am making representations to the Department on behalf of these residents.  It’s an outrage that insurance companies are having such an impact on every aspect of Irish life and I’d call on the Government again to take on these companies who have made super-normal profits over the past few years on the backs of Irish families and small businesses. I have spoken to bus providers in Trim who have availability for bus places, if requested by Bus Eireann.  They have expressed frustration and upset as they have been approached by people they know who are desperate for bus placements for their children.  One family in a Trim estate has a son in the ASD unit in St Mary's and was entitled to the bus  because of this.  He has now moved to St Michael's next door and thankfully has been deemed eligible for mainstream education.  However,  his bus place has now been taken from him.  This causes serious distress to children with his condition never mind the disruption to routine and his parent's worklife. Most worryingly. I have had reports of parents being advised to send their children to schools in different counties because geographically, Kildare schools can be closer to parts of Meath.  How is this a solution? Why do we want to send our children to other counties for their basic right to education?   We need Bus Eireann to review the routes, requirements and refusals already issued and make best endeavours to accommodate all applicants.  The bus companies can accommodate these children and this Government needs to stop hiding behind the Department of Education and step up and find a solution. Listen in at 1hr 13min 50sec to Hazel Thompson Carty and I discussing the school bus placement debacle.

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