Newport autistic pupils pulled from college over bus funding

Harry Peach Image copyright Claire Peach
Image caption Harry Peach's mother has come off medication for a muscle condition so she can drive her son to college

Parents of autistic children have had to pull their children out of college as they wait to find out if their transport will be funded.

Juliette Davis from Newport, along with other parents, took time off work this week to take their children to Priory College in Pontypool, Torfaen.

But many cannot do so any longer, meaning the pupils will not be able to attend college from next week.

Newport council said assessments of the pupils' needs were ongoing.

Ms Davis, 44, said her 16-year-old son Luke, who has autism and learning disabilities, is too vulnerable to travel alone.

"We were told by a member of staff at Newport City Council 'don't worry, I will sort transport for you', but September came and there was no transport.

"Traffic, alarms, sirens all frighten Luke, he is so vulnerable it's frightening to me. If we put him on a city bus, we would never see him again."

The council said it was aware of the issues, but each application had to be assessed on an individual basis and this process was ongoing, adding transport provision was not its statutory responsibility.

But parents said their questions have gone unanswered and they have not been told how long the assessments might take, what they entail and whether the transport - if granted - would even be suitable for their children.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Pontypool is about 10 miles away from Newport

"My son is not going to college next week unless we give our jobs up, if I could afford to I would," Ms Davis said.

"I really want him to go there, it's a wonderful facility. I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I find it really upsetting that they [the council] are ignoring us."

Claire Peach, 46, has come off her medication for a condition affecting her hip and knee in order to be able to drive her son Harry to the college.

She said she would continue to do so for as long as she could before her muscles tighten too much to be able to walk without a stick or potentially drive.

"Nobody mentioned the assessment until two days ago, all the children are vulnerable so we want to know what this entails... because Harry will happily say anything to make anybody happy, it's his nature.

"You can only get a place at the Priory if other schools have signed a letter saying they can't accommodate their needs, how is this not enough?

"Something we would love to do is put them on a bus, at the Priory they do some travel training, Harry is very scared of public transport."

Ms Peach added a main aim of the Priory was enabling young people on the cusp of independence to gain it.

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