Parents have been left under ‘incredible strain’ as they try to source school transport for their children, a Laois Offaly TD has said.
Independent TD Carol Nolan says her offices are dealing with an increasing number of families who say their children are being left with no means of travelling to school. She claims many have had last minute refusals by Bus Eireann for school transport tickets for the forthcoming academic year.
She was speaking after Minister Normal Foley confirmed that there has been a significant increase in the number of students applying for the school transport scheme following a decision by Government to make the service free as a cost-of-living measure from the Government. This has led to severe capacity issues for approximately 15,000 students nationally, said Deputy Nolan.
“I think we can all accept that they decision to waive the average fee of €500 was a welcome move that saved families a lot money at a time of increasing financial pressure,”she remarked.
“However, anyone with an ounce of cop-on should have been able to foresee that making the service free was always going to increase the numbers of those applying and that this would then require timely and advance actions to ensure greater numbers of buses were made available.”
Deputy Nolan said: “This has not happened and as a result, families in both Offaly and Laois, particularly in rural areas, are now under incredible strain as they scramble to try and source transport for their children.”
She said “I have had parents on to me who say that they have been attempting for months to contact Bus Eireann to try and have these issues addressed and they simply cannot get through to anyone, nor are their emails being replied to. This is contemptible negligence towards parents and indeed the students themselves who are absolutely reliant on this service.”
Deputy Nolan said: “What is also clearly emerging is the need for Bus Eireann to immediately implement a number of minor route diversions that would enable children to be collected and placed on buses, that as some parents have told me, are routinely half-empty.”
“The Minister, the Department of Education and Bus Eireann need to urgently address this matter. It is causing fierce anguish to many parents who genuinely have no way, short of leaving their jobs, of getting their kids to and back from school,” concluded Deputy Nolan.
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