A mum has called on Trafford Council to reinstate a school bus service for all special needs children at a Timperley school – as she revealed how the “cruel” decision has led her severely autistic son to start self-harming.
Taiyo Nelson is one of 16 special needs teenagers to have had the bus service withdrawn by the council last year in a move designed to save £70,000.
The service was re-instated for some after appeals – but 11 post-16-year-olds, including 18-year-old Taiyo who lost his appeal, still have no transport.
He currently relies on mum Claudette and dad Steve taking him to school either side of their shifts at the Duerr’s jam factory in Wythenshawe.
And speaking to Altrincham Today, Claudette painted a stark picture of the toll the council’s decision had taken on their autistic son.
“Taiyo has very limited language and understanding, so he’s very vulnerable,” she said. “We couldn’t send him out to the local shop to get anything because he has no road sense. He’s not your typical 18-year-old.
“He doesn’t really talk, but he used to shake the hands of people on the bus and they would say ‘good morning Taiyo’. It was his own bit of independence away from mum and dad, and he was so excited every morning to get on the bus, he’d run out of the house. To take that away from him is just cruel.”
Claudette said the decision to withdraw the bus service had directly led to health problems for her son.
“He’s on anti-anxiety medication directly because of this,” she said. “He’s routine-bound – that’s what autism is. It is so fundamental to him, and to take it away and you can’t really explain why it’s been taken away, he has automatically gone into crisis because it’s like ‘I’ve been doing this for 14 years, what the hell is going on’.”
Showing some of the scars on her son’s skin, she said Taiyo had started self-harming in September.
“If you or I get frustrated we can have a good scream or cry or verbalise it, you can rant and rave. He doesn’t know how to do that – the only way to let people know he is at a breaking point is to self-harm.
“He picks his skin and his lips. His wrists are scarred. That’s how it seems to come out for him. He’s definitely done it a lot more since September, since he lost his transport.”
Taiyo has attended Brentwood School – which Claudette said had been “brilliant” for him – since he was 12, having previously gone to Pictor School in Timperley.
He has another year and a half left at Brentwood and is then hoping to go on to Brentwood College.
Speaking from their home in Stretford – from where Taiyo must travel every day – Claudette said the decision had come completely out of the blue when they received a letter from the council last June.
She called on the council to “speak to the parents and the carers”.
“If they’d assessed or spoken to us in the first place, they would actually see that what they are doing is just not feasible.
“Taiyo just could not catch a bus on his own. Him and the rest of the children are SEN [special educational needs] for a reason. We would love for our children not to be vulnerable, we’d love them to be “normal”, but they’re not. It’s hard enough for them as it is to deal with on an everyday basis, to deal with whatever issues they have.”
Claudette said that one of the other parents involved had been forced to give up her job in order to take her child to school, while another child hadn’t attended the school since the council’s decision came into force in September.
All the affected parents have now joined forces through a Facebook group – SOS Trafford – and recently held a protest outside the Town Hall in Stretford, with former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr – whose niece is one of the teenagers affected – attending. A petition to save transport for Brentwood students has so far been signed by over 2,250 people.
“We’re not going to sit back and let them potentially destroy our kids,” added Claudette. “It’s just not fair, it really isn’t. They don’t understand the consequences of what they’ve done, for the sake of what? £70,000?
“If that’s the issue and you need to save money, I’m sure there would be some way we could come up with some kind of compromise solution that’s beneficial for the council and the children. If they knew what they were doing, maybe they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. It’s not them who have to go home at night and deal with anxious kids.”
Since the outcry over the plans which were laid out in its draft budget in November, the council has reinstated £70,000 into the Home to School transport budget to allow it to consider its response to the consultation on the All Age Integrated Transport policy.
The final decision will be announced later this month.