Job losses are 'a devastating blow'
An estimated 30 jobs are to be lost from June when St Catherine's Association will no longer provide school transport services to students attending St Catherine's Special School in Newcastle.
The provision of service will then be handed back to Bus Éireann.
In a press statement this week, it was outlined that a decision has been taken by the Board of Directors and the Senior Management team at St Catherine's Association (SCA) to transfer the provision of service to Bus Éireann at the end of the current term.
'SCA's core business is in the provision of social care services which will be our focus, not transport services. The operation of the transport system by SCA is a legacy of a time when the association and the school were very much intertwined,' the statement said.
'The transport system is to get children to and from St Catherine's Special School. Bus Éireann are the body responsible for providing the transport service to and from schools and have sub-contracted it to SCA down the years. The cost of running the transport fleet has significantly exceeded the funding provided by Bus Éireann/DES for many years. This situation clearly couldn't continue and the board are conscious that public funds from the Department of Health cannot be spent on subventing services from the Department of Education,' the statement said.
St Catherine's Association said that its bus fleet is in very poor condition and generating increasing maintenance and repair costs year on year.
'It would take an investment of circa €750k to repair and replace the fleet and there is no funding available for this. Obviously, when Bus Éireann outsources the work to contractors, it is up to the contractors to look after their own fleet. This decision has not been taken lightly and unfortunately there are redundancies involved,' the statement continued.
The association said that it is committed to doing what it can to minimise the impact on those affected and who wish to seek employment with the new contractors.
It also outlined that one school route was handed back to Bus Éireann last year when a bus broke down beyond repair and that 'this transition went very smoothly'.
According to Sinn Féin TD John Brady, the news has come as a 'devastating blow' to those who face losing their jobs.
'It is now apparent that the school transport currently provided by St Catherine's Association for children attending St Catherine's Special School will cease at the end of this school term,' said Deputy Brady.
'I am informed that Bus Éireann will take responsibility for school transport for the 2017/18 school term. However, definite arrangements are yet to be put in place as to the logistics of this. Central to any changes must be to ensure that the least amount of disruption is caused to children and their families,' he said.