Monday 23 October 2017

Investigations after child with autism left on school bus

Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

THE Department of Education and Bus Eireann are carrying out separate investigations after a child with autism was left on board a school bus.

The boy - aged five - is believed to be a student of St Joseph's Special School, Balrothery near Tallaght.

He was collected from his home as part of a joint service run by Bus Eireann on behalf of the Department of Education.

It is understood that the driver discovered the child was still on the bus as soon as he reached the depot.

A representative for Bus Eireann said that they are taking the incident very seriously and are conducting a full investigation.

“There are processes in place that should be adhered when it comes to transporting children,” he told the Herald.

“It is our understanding that the child was found (when the driver reached the depot) but we have to investigate that fully.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education told the Herald that it was their understanding that the child was not left alone on the bus for any period of time after it reached the depot.

“The Department of Education and Skills became aware of an incident involving a student at St Joseph's Special School, Balrothery yesterday evening,” they said.

“The Department is in contact with Bus Éireann, which operates the school bus service, and is investigating the incident.”

The school in south west Dublin was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.

It is the second incident of its kind in just over one week.

On May 27, a woman with an intellectual disability was accidentally locked on board a mini-bus for almost seven hours.

The young woman was due to be dropped off for the day at the Moorehaven Centre in Tipperary town last Monday - but was instead driven back to the bus garage, where she was found seven hours later.

The woman was said to be in a distressed state in the aftermath of the incident, and didn't attend the centre the following day as she recovered from her ordeal.

Chairman of the Moorehaven Centre, Denis Kennedy apologised on behalf of the organisation and said there had been an “unacceptable lapse”.

He said that the organisation would introduce changes in procedure to ensure that such an incident wouldn't happen again.

Mr Kennedy said that the bus wasn't checked to make sure that everyone had disembarked,

“I suppose there were two failures - one that it wasn't checked after everyone got off, and secondly that the centre did not have a procedure in place to make sure that everyone who got on the bus actually arrived in the centre - which obviously is a major lapse on our part,” he said.

In future he said that staff would contact the families of any service-user who failed to show up on their appointed attendance days.

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