REDBRIDGE: Parents blasts proposals to cut special needs travel budget (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Parents blast proposals to cut special needs travel budget
THE parents of two autistic boys with multiple disabilities have blasted proposals to cut funding for travel services for disabled children and young adults in the borough.
Redbridge Council’s cabinet will meet at the town hall tomorrow night (January 10) to consider budget plans for 2012/13.
As part of their cost-cutting measures, cabinet will consider withdrawing free travel to and from school for some children with special needs and reducing the age at which young adults are eligible for free transport from 25 to 21.
David Lee, 45, and Beverley Brewer of Wavertree Road in South Woodford, say their 11-year-old sons, Mark and Paul, could not manage the journey to school on their own.
Mr Lee added: “None of the children I personally see using special needs transport could possibly be expected to travel on their own.
“Of course encouraging independence is a good thing, but I think it’s being promoted here to save a few quid.”
Council officers estimate £35,000 could be saved if some children with special needs were given ‘travel training’.
They also say savings of £25,000 could be made by reducing the age at which free transport is provided for young adults with special needs from 25 to 21.
Currently, 100 young adults with special needs benefit from this service in Redbridge.
Mr Lee said: “It seems truly heartless that young people with special needs aged 21 to 25 will have their transport to college withdrawn.
“This will risk some of these young people having to leave their courses altogether and will have a dreadful affect on access to education for this vulnerable group.
“It is another example of reducing rather than building independence”
But cabinet member for children’s services, Alan Weinberg, defended the proposals.
He said young adults over the age of 21 would still be eligible for free transport but that responsibility for this would fall within the remit of adult social services.
He added: “We are talking about a saving of £25,000 which I think adult social services can certainly mop up.
“With younger people, the parents would be involved in any decision.
“I don’t like the term ‘travel training’ I think it is more about preparing young people for the transition from childhood to adulthood.
“Barking and Dagenham have had some success with a similar scheme. It wouldn’t be something we would even consider if they had said it was a disaster.”
But, if the cuts are made, the council is likely to face a storm of opposition from parents including Mr Lee and Mrs Brewer who said: "I am sure that a number of families of disabled children across the borough would make very strong representations to the council if these measures were passed.”
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