Red tape stops pupils from using school bus
PILES of paperwork are preventing three children with special needs from getting on a school bus outside their door every morning.
Layers of red tape are forcing the Health Service Executive (HSE) to pay for a taxi to bring a 12-year-old, who is in care, to and from school every day.
The parents of the other two pupils have to bring their children back to their old address every morning so they can get a bus to school.
The problem has been blamed on the bureaucracy involved in applying for school transport for children with special needs.
Schools have to go through the same paperwork all over again when an existing pupil changes address.
Because two of the pupils in question qualified for school transport at their old address, they may still avail of it, but their parents have to bring them back each day for pick-up and collection.
The three students, pupils at Scoil Chiarain special school in north Dublin, ran into obstacles when they changed address this year.
The Glasnevin school caters for 133 pupils, aged five to 18, who live in the north Dublin area.
Scoil Chiarain principal Valerie Monaghan said the children could be picked up at their new addresses by one of the 10 buses serving the school.
"The bureaucratic layers involved in matters such as getting a child to school had increased since the establishment of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE)," she said. At the moment, the process involves five steps:
- The school applies for transport and sends it to a special education needs officer (SENO).
- If SENO says yes, recommendation is passed to the Department of Education.
- The Department of Education seeks details on cost, distance etc from Bus Eireann.
- A bus inspector may travel the route to check mileage and other details and reports back to the Department.
- The Department tells Bus Eireann, which tells the bus operator, which tells the driver, who in turn tells the parent, that transport has been sanctioned.
The matter was raised yesterday at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Education, which was discussing special needs education.
Green Party education spokesman TD Paul Gogarty said it was a waste of taxpayers' money to have the HSE paying for a taxi to get a child to and from school, when a transport service was available. He said a lack of communication was resulting in a poor level of service for these children.
The NCSE was set up to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children.
But Ms Monaghan said there were "so many stages in the sanctioning of transport and so many people involved that it was taking much longer to arrange than ever before".
She said it was "unnecessary and time-consuming and has not led to more efficiencies in the service or improvements for children. In fact, quite the opposite."