Parents angry at plans to cut personal transport services for disabled children are furious at a council claim obesity could be linked to special needs.
Under Sutton Council’s proposal to cut its transport budget by £250,000, most door-to-door taxis would be scrapped and pick-up points introduced.
It would mean some children with special educational needs could have to walk up to a mile to catch a school bus.
At an earlier meeting, executive head of parent, pupil and student services Sharman Lawson had provoked anger when she referred to “research’’ that showed a possible link between obesity and special needs children.
When questioned by parents at a meeting this week, Mrs Lawson said: “What I said was children in special schools had a tendency to be more obese than mainstream children, that is what the research says.’’ However parent Jo Fox, of Sutton, 42, a full-time carer for her eight-year-old autistic son, rubbished the claim.
She said: “It’s just a way to get our children to walk but it’s unrealistic and unfounded and a cost-cutting exercise.
“If this is pursued further we may conduct independent research to rebuke these claims.’’ At the meeting parents argued their children had complex needs and behaviour, and walking to a pick-up-point would prove difficult.
They outlined consequences for getting other siblings to school on time and complications if one sibling was sick.
Dawn Lever, 60, a special needs supply teacher from Sutton, said the council needed to carry out a risk assessment on hazards facing the children on their way to the pick-up point.
In response to a question on how long children would be expected to wait for a bus, Mrs Lloyd answered between 20 to 30 minutes.
Parents responded with jeers and asked what would happen if their child was to miss the bus for any reason.
At first Mrs Lloyd said parents might have to drive their children to school, but later she suggested they could be picked up by a taxi paid for by council.
But parents said that would only raise costs and make a mockery of the proposal.
During the meeting Mrs Lloyd stressed the proposals were only at consultation stage and urged more parents to return their consultation documents before the deadline of October 10.
She said: “SEN transport is a council-run service and we are duty bound to review it, as we do all our services.
“It costs £4.3m a year to run for 545 children – that’s a lot of money.
“That doesn’t mean to say it has got to change but under audit procedures we have to make sure we’re getting value for money.’’ • What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.