Leeds Unite Community activists have won another victory in their campaign to ensure the continued running of school transport for disabled children in the area.
Leeds City Council (LCC) last year 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 leave 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 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.
Following a campaign that won the backing of two Leeds MPs, who took part in this year’s Leeds trade union council’s May Day rally and attracted widespread media attention, the council announced in June that they were “pausing” the cuts for a year and would be reconsidering the issue.
Services to run to 2020
Now, after meeting with Unite Community activists and DEAL, the council have agreed to run services until 2020.
Unite Community Leeds and Wakefield branch secretary Gerry Lavery said, “(The meeting with the council) was very constructive indeed, and they have now agreed to extend the current pause in the transport policy for yet a further year. That’s two years in total.
“This will allow adequate time for any new policy to be developed and to see whether any government review of school transport for the post-16 group will result in change following concerns nationally.”
LCC suggested that DEAL consider the possibility of a voluntary system using existing transport resources to better suit individual children and their families and promised to work with parents on a regular basis to address their issues.
Lavery added, “The council and DEAL also agreed to work together on education provision for those with special educational needs and disabilities who are older than 19. There are concerns about the facilities and resources at Leeds City College available for this group.”
Unite regional coordinator John Coan said the campaign was “another excellent example of the positive changes Unite Community activists make to people’s lives everyday”.
“Standing together to fight against injustice and inequality is at the heart of what trade unionism is all about,” Coan said.
“The hard work and dedication of Leeds’ Unite Community members in assisting some of the most vulnerable young people in their community speaks for itself.
“Although the fight goes on to ensure transport services for disabled children in the area remain permanently, the DEAL campaigners can be sure that Unite Community members will be with them every step of the way.”