Unite Community activists in Leeds have written a pamphlet aimed at helping fellow campaigners, following their victory in forcing the city’s council to continue providing school transport for disabled children.
In 2017, Leeds City Council announced plans to cut transport services for children with special educational needs and physical disabilities entering post-16 education.
In an effort to save £830,000, the council proposed replacing escorted mini-bus transport with personal travel allowances – a move that would have left children who have to travel long distances to school stranded and force some parents to give up work.
In response, a group of parents formed the Disability Empowerment Action Links (DEAL) campaign in February 2018 to fight the cuts.
After hearing about the children’s plight, activists from Unite Community teamed up with DEAL to stage demonstrations, launch a petition and lobby councillors and MPs.
In January, following sustained media attention and a public outcry generated by the campaign, the council relented and permanently reinstated the transport services.
The idea to write the pamphlet came about as a result of the successful campaign.
Representatives of DEAL and Unite Community agreed it would be useful to mark their success by writing an account of what happened, share their story with others in similar situations and draw lessons from the campaign.
It is hoped the pamphlet will be useful to policy-makers and professionals involved in the area of special educational needs and disabilities.
Unite Community Leeds and Wakefield branch secretary Gerry Lavery said, “This decision means that the young people affected will be able to retain their traditional method of travel to school in an escorted minibus, so that their education won’t be affected and their routines and friendship networks will be maintained.
“This successful campaign reflects the determination of the parents involved – mainly women – and the valuable moral, political and practical support given to them by Unite Community. It shows the true value of community-based trade unionism promoted by Unite.”
Lavery added, “Both DEAL and Unite Community are delighted to have been able to write up their story to share with others in their recently published pamphlet.”
Copies of The Leeds School Transport Campaign: Defending Services for Vulnerable Young People pamphlet cost £3.50 and can be ordered here.