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Parents express their anger at Redbridge Council pilot scheme

PUBLISHED: 13:52 06 July 2016 | UPDATED: 13:52 06 July 2016

Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for Children and Young People

Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for Children and Young People

Archant

Councillors were forced to justify a pilot scheme that would scrap door-to-door transport services for some of the borough’s special needs children during a tense meeting on Tuesday night.

A group of parents from Redbridge’s special needs schools, including Little Heath, where the scheme will be trialled, attended the cabinet meeting to protest against plans to introduce pupil collection points that could be as far as half a mile from their homes.

Some even bought their children to the meeting to show councillors who their decision would affect the most.

During the meeting council leader Jas Athwal revealed the pilot scheme would save £70,000, but there were repeated calls for the council to clarify what medical and psychiatric qualifications those risk-assessing the proposal had.

School governor Jason Naicker, 46, from South Woodford, whose 18-year-old autistic daughter is at the school, presented the council with a petition against the scheme, signed by more than 3,000 people, which will now be discussed by the full council later this month.

Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for children and young people, stressed that the idea was for certain groups of special needs children to begin “moving towards independence”, and that the council had appointed appropriate Special Educational Needs (SEN) consultants.

However, Cllr Norman promised the council would not adopt a blanket approach, and there was no need for parents to get overly

upset.

She said: “I’m upset about the anxiety that has been raised in parents. I have no intention of making children stand waiting at busy roadsides for buses. We have council buildings suitable for children to wait in.

“I must emphasise, at this point there may be no need for parents or carers to be anxious when there is a chance their door-to-door service will not change.”

Speaking to the Recorder after the meeting a number of concerned parents, who wished to remain nameless for fear of council reprisals, were not reassured.

“It’s all well and good talking about using libraries and children’s centres as collection points,” said one, “but who’s going to pay to clean up when my child trashes the place because they’re highly autistic and get uncomfortable in an unknown environment.”

Another said: “Some of these kids have trouble walking ten feet, but the council expects them to walk half a mile to the nearest collection point.”

The general mood of the parents, who came from both Little Heath and the Hatton School and Special Needs Centre, was summed up by one mother.

She said: “A month after sending out the first letter and we’re still not being told anything. It’s like they’re making it up as they go along.”


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