N. Ireland Politics

Special needs brothers are refused transport to school

An Omagh mother has said she is "disgusted" by a decision by the Western Education and Library Board not to provide transport to school for her sons, one of whom is a wheelchair user.

Nadine Slaven's youngest son Kian has recently recovered from a life-threatening illness.

His brother Marshall, who is almost seven, cannot speak or read.

They attend St Colmcille primary school, in Omagh, which is about a 20 minute walk from their home.

In good weather, Mrs Slaven walks with the children to school. If it rains she has to take a taxi, which can cost over £200 a month.

Mrs Slaven said that public transport would not be an option for the boys.

"Kian is in a wheelchair 90% of the time, he's got cerebral palsy. He has chronic lung disease. He was born with a cyst and fluid in his brain. And how can you put a boy, like Marshall, who can't speak and can't read, on a bus ? That's a complete and utter danger," she said.

Mrs Slaven said the board should help with the transport costs.

"In Scotland, because of Marshall and Kian's problems, they got picked up at the door, taken to school and brought back again. We thought it would be the same over here, but it's totally different."

When the Slavens moved to the area, the nearest Catholic school they could find for the boys was St Columcille.

However, their choice of school appears to be at the root of the transport problems.

Mrs Slaven said she has been told that if the boys were to go to Christ is King school, which is very close to their home, they would be entitled to help with transport.

"What the board are saying is that because you don't go to Christ the King you're not entitled to transport.

"Why should I have to take my boys out of a school they're settled in and doing well in. The school actually relocated a classroom downstairs to accommodate Kian. The policy is total and utter rubbish.

"It's an absolute disgrace, it makes my blood boil, it's discrimination," she said.

Local Councillor Paddy McGowan said he can see no reason why the board should refuse to provide transport for the boys.

"They are saying they will provide transport for that child to go to a particular school.

"Where does parental choice come in? That child is entitled to transport to school. What's the difference between Colmcille and Christ the King?," he said.

A Western Education and Library Board (WELB) spokesperson said: "The board provides transport in line with an agreed transport policy and decisions are made in compliance with that policy.

"If transport is required on medical grounds then medical advice needs to be provided to the board with this recommendation.

"Although issues in relation to individual children have been raised, the board does not comment publicly on individual cases, so that confidentiality issues relating to the individual children are protected."