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‘My Daughter In Wheelchair Was Abandoned By School Taxis’

September 2, 2022

    A mother has told the BBC her daughter has been left “abandoned” outside her high school in South Lanarkshire because of transport failures.

    The 11-year-old uses a wheelchair and is entitled to a taxi pick-up after each school day.

    But her mother Lisa Harland said she has only been picked up twice this term and staff have not waited with her.

    South Lanarkshire Council said pupils could wait inside the school if transport was unavailable.

    However, Ms Harland said she had to leave work to pick up her daughter and found the school office shutters down.

    Because the family live in Glasgow, the girl’s transport is organised by Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), and provided by Glasgow Taxis.

    Ms Harland said she had called the taxi company and SPT but had been unable to find out who is in charge.

    She said: “It doesn’t matter who I speak to, somebody tells me it’s somebody else’s responsibility.

    “But at the end of the day my child is left alone, outside, vulnerable. It’s not like she can run away from danger.

    “Anything could happen to her in the time she’s sat outside that school and I’m petrified and it’s caused us no end of worry and stress and anxiety.”

    ‘Anxiety and distress’

    Since the school term began on 16 August, the first year pupil has been picked up twice. She is entitled to a taxi to and from school.

    According to Ms Harland, teachers and a janitor had asked the girl if she was ok at the end of the school day – and she responded she was waiting on her taxi.

    Ms Harland said she has missed hours of work to collect her daughter, who had been phoning her in tears.

    She added: “She’s a very responsible young girl but still she’s just moved from a very tiny primary school with a couple of hundred kids at most to 1,400 kids. She’s been there two weeks.

    “It’s causing her great anxiety and distress on what’s already a really difficult situation.”

    A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said: “Any issues reported to [the school] with regards Ms Harland’s daughter have been reported through the normal process to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT).

    “Provision is in place within the school building in the event of the unavailability of transport.”

    An SPT spokesperson said: “Ms Harland’s daughter was allocated space on a school bus however no information was sent to us regarding her wheelchair and we were not aware of any issues with the transport provided.

    “SPT does not provide school transport for children who require additional assistance to travel – this is the responsibility of individual councils.”

    A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “We are very sorry that this situation has arisen and as a matter of urgency will be continuing discussions with the supplier to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

    “We know that since the pandemic there has been a reduction in drivers but the health and safety of our young people is crucial and we will apologise to the family.”

    Glasgow Taxis said it could not discuss individual cases, but said it was sorry for the problem being experienced.

    It said there had been problems caused by many drivers leaving the trade during the pandemic – but that “time-critical discussions” had begun to mitigate the girl’s issue as quickly as possible.

    ‘Urgent investigation’

    Earlier this month a number of school bus routes in North Lanarkshire were cancelled the night before local children returned to school.

    The cuts affected 26 primary and secondary schools in the area.

    Bin lorry drivers were redeployed to drive school buses which resulted in the suspension of recycling bin collections.

    The constituency’s SNP MSP, Clare Haughey, said many pupils in South Lanarkshire had also been impacted by transport problems and still had not received bus or taxi provision.

    She said: “Local school transport provision over the past few weeks has been shambolic. The matter raised by Ms Harland is deeply concerning.

    “Ms Harland rightly expected that her daughter continued to be in the care of South Lanarkshire Council or their transport partner until she was safely home.

    “South Lanarkshire Council must resolve the transport issues without delay, and an urgent investigation is needed into how this situation at [the school] arose.”

    Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy said it was deeply worrying to hear the pupil was not getting the transport she was entitled to.

    She said: “As a wheelchair user, the fact that she is not getting the taxi transport she needs is denying her access to a full education.

    “I encourage all involved to get together and make sure this important issue is sorted out.”

    Scottish Conservative Shadow Transport Minister Graham Simpson called the situation completely unacceptable.

    He added: “Pupils and parents across the region have been let down by the council and operators since schools returned after the summer break and it appears the situation is only getting worse.”

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