Barking and Dagenham transport policy could put our children at risk

Worried mums have warned that a transport policy forcing disabled pupils to walk to allocated pick-up points could put the safety of their children at risk.

Kerry Thompson, 28, and Alison Hawkes, 36, spoke out about the changes brought in last year by Barking and Dagenham Council which left children having to make their own way to pick-up points as opposed to being collected from their front doors.

Ms Thompson’s child Mark, 11, and Ms Hawkes’ child Anthony Keble, 14, are having to walk to meeting points where they are then picked up by a taxi which takes them to their special school.

The changes were brought in as a cost-cutting measure.

The parents warned their children could be picked up by strangers. They also questioned if the council, which is continuing to phase out the “door-to-door” policy for disabled children, was saving any money from the scheme.

Ms Hawkes, of St Georges Road, Dagenham, said: “The only thing this is achieving is putting my profoundly deaf son in danger as he is vulnerable if going to the pick-up point on his own – he may get in the wrong vehicle if there is a change of taxi staff or is left waiting for a time.

“How can this be a cost-cutting exercise and a saving to their budget when the taxi has to go past our house to go to the pick-up point?”

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Both Anthony and Mark go to Blanche Nevile School for the deaf in Muswell Hill, north London.

Ms Thompson, of Arden Crescent, Dagenham, said: “I don’t agree with this policy. He’s not just an 11-year-old child. He has quite a lot of other problems. He has behavioural difficulties and anxiety. My child is disabled. He is vulnerable. They should provide something for him for his safety.”

Barking and Dagenham Council began to phase out the door-to-door policy last year.

The Labour council has previously said the policy would promote independence for children with special needs.

The mums said the council was making carers available in the mornings to help their children learn to go to the pick-up points by themselves.

However, they understand the helpers could be phased out once the pupils feel confident enough to make their way there alone.

Barking and Dagenham Council declined to comment on the individual cases saying they were in contact with the parents concerned.