“This is downright cruel' says Harborough mum who is spearheading a mission to stop cuts to school transport for disabled children
A furious Market Harborough mum is spearheading a mission to stop vital school transport for disabled children being slashed.
Kyra Williams, 45, helped to stage a march through Leicester as people from all over the county flocked to back their appeal.
They were supported by Celia Hibbert, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Harborough.
And now Kyra has vowed to step up the high-profile battle to defend the crucial service for families across the country.
She pledged: “We’ll fight this devastating blow all the way.”
Kyra is acting after Leicestershire County Council voted in March 2018 to remove transport for children aged between 16 and 18.
The authority plans instead to give parents of youngsters with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) cash to fund their own travel.
“I united with other campaigners to take out a judicial review against this ruling.
“The judge decided the council wasn’t breaking the law,” said Kyra, whose disabled daughter Molly, 14, attends Birkett House School, Wigston.
“But the council has now ‘paused’ introducing this policy until September 2020.
“The problem is that children are legally required to attend school until they are 18.
“But free specialised buses and taxis would be stopped for our kids once they reach 16.
“That leaves a big two-year gap.
“The cash we’d get would just be petrol money.
“We’d be hit both practically and financially as well as emotionally.
“Our children at the moment are taken to school in wheelchair-friendly vehicles with medically-trained carers.
“Parents are already fearing they’ll have to quit work to run vulnerable children in.
“This is downright cruel and is piling massive stress on families already under terrible pressure.”
Kyra, an editor and videographer, said the dramatic move would hit about 400 families in Leicestershire.
“There are quite a few in the Harborough area who would suffer.
“Unusually we have cross-party support with the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives all behind us,” said the mum-of-three.
“We just want the council and the government to think again and reverse this shattering decision.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said: “This is an important issue I’ve raised with both Leicestershire County Council and former Education Secretary Damian Hinds.
“The recent £14 billion funding announcement for schools included £700m for SEND which was welcome, but we also need to ensure we have sufficient provisions for SEND transport.
“This is something I’m hoping to discuss further with current Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.”
Angry Celia Hibbert said: “It’s morally wrong.
“This policy is tragic from every angle and piles more stress and pressure on parents like Kyra.
“More money has to be found to continue to provide school transport for 16-18-year-olds.”
Zuffar Haq, Harborough’s Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate, said: “This is totally unacceptable – it’s discrimination.
“This decision to slash funding has to be overturned as soon as possible.”
Mr Haq, who had a special needs daughter, added: “The county council and government should also provide many more school places for special needs children in Market Harborough.”
Cllr Blake Pain, county council cabinet member for passenger transport, said: “Every pupil must have the chance to get to their school or nursery, but increasing budget pressures mean we had to reconsider how we can assist.
“We were very aware of concerns raised by families of post-16 SEN students.
“But we were satisfied we followed proper processes in relation to our new policy for those in post-16 SEN transport arrangements in September 2019.”
Cllr Pain said the cost of transporting youngsters rocketed from £6.5m in 2011/12 to £9.2m in 2016/17 – an increase of 42 per cent.