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Outrage as disabled children in Thundersley lose school bus travel
FAMILIES have reacted with fury after a subsidised bus service for disabled children was cut back.
Parents of children living within a three-mile radius of Cedar Hall Special Needs School, in Thundersley, have been sent letters telling them their children can no longer get the bus.
And a child who cannot even walk was told in an “impersonal” letter from Essex County Council he would have to walk to school.
The child’s ban was later overturned on appeal after a doctor intervened, but parents and Peter Whelan, headteacher at Cedar Hall, have condemned the decision.
Linda Rains, 47, of Clarence Road North, Benfleet , depends on the bus service to take her autistic son Harrison, ten, to school.
Mrs Rains, a mum-of-four, said: “He is confused and doesn’t understand why he can’t get the bus with his friends any longer.
“Autistic children depend on routine and changing something he has done for five years is awful for him.
“If we were to pay, it would be about £4 a day and we just cannot afford that.”
Mr Whelan said he felt disabled children had been discriminated against.
He added: “It’s a devastating decision for the council to cut the funding. So many families have been impacted with this decision and I’ve even been helping families write letters of appeal.
“I know of a few children being kept off school because they cannot physically get here. Some families in Rayleigh have been told to get a bus in when there is not even a service from their homes. It’s discriminating against the most needy in society.”
Tina Hailstone, who owns family business Hailstone Travel, which provided the bus service, said: “Some of them really need the transport and they live too far from the school to be able to walk or get a bus.
“They are children with disabilities and the transport is something they should have.”
A spokesman for Essex County Council said Harrison’s claim for subsidised transport had been reassessed and it was found there was not enough evidence to make the award.
The spokesman added: “We can confirm the refusal of transport was not due to funding cuts and instead based on an assessment against Essex County Council’s home to school transport policy.”