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Assisted School Travel Bungle Continues

22 Feb, 2012 01:00 AM

THERE are still problems with the Assisted School Travel Program.

Last week two Heckenburg intellectually disabled boys, 9 and 12, left the bus at a wrong stop after one of them had an altercation with the driver.

A Department of Education and Communities spokesman said the driver stopped the bus because, he said, one of the boys had been misbehaving.

The department also confirmed that there was no trained escort on the bus.

Police found the boys more than two hours later, several kilometres away from where they lived.

The department’s spokesman said the welfare of the schoolchildren was paramount.

He said the department continually reviewed the procedures required to keep children using the Assisted School Travel Program.

“Therefore, an escort will be provided on the transport run involving the two students,” he said. “Escorts are provided on other runs, depending on the disability level of the students being transported, and all drivers and escorts will have appropriate medical training to handle the students they are transporting.”

The travel program bungle started almost a month ago when more than 700 disabled and special-needs children were stranded without transport after the government failed to finalise contracts.

The program was to provide specialised door-to-door transport assistance for special-needs students between their permanent residence and school.

Grace Fava, owner and director of the Autism Advisory and Support Centre in Memorial Avenue, said the chaos created by the bungle started a domino effect that had an impact on the entire community.

As a result, she said, many children were left stranded, and parents had no alternative arrangements.

“We had so many families contact us asking for assistance,” Ms Fava said. “There were families with new-born babies, parents who were stuck at work, and we had a cancer specialist who had to cancel two days’ worth of work. In that incident it really could have been a life or death situation.

“This mess has affected kids with disabilities, and that’s bad enough, but when the aftermath affects the entire community, it’s gone too far.”

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