Minister unable to give timeline for when school transport services will be fully operational – not good enough
Labour Representative on the Oireachtas Covid-19 Response Committee, Duncan Smith T.D. said the response of the Minister for Education Norma Foley at the Covid Committee who was unable to give a timeline for when school transport services will be fully operational is not good enough.
Deputy Smith said:
“There is a lot of concern amongst parents in my constituency of Dublin Fingal as I’m sure there is around the country in relation to the provision of school transport services and if we will have adequate school transport for the coming academic year.
“When pressed the Minister and her official repeatedly failed to give a timeline as to when school transport services will be operational. In some cases, parents have paid money to Bus Eireann with Bus Eireann in some cases keeping the money and in other cases issuing refunds and, in both cases, parents still do not know if they will have a service.
“I repeatedly asked both Minister Foley and her officials to clarify when every child who requires school transport will have a place on a bus and neither could tell me when or even if every child who needs a place on a bus will have one for the coming year.
“This is completely unacceptable; we are in the middle of the worst public health crisis in a generation and children cannot be left waiting indefinitely for a place on a school bus. The Minister knows about the longstanding issues with school transport, she is also aware that Bus Eireann would need to procure additional vehicles due to social distancing requirements, yet Bus Eireann only advertised last week for additional vehicles.
“The way the Bus Eireann portal to register and pay for school transport abruptly closed on August 20th leaving parents and students effectively stranded is unacceptable. Parents and school children need certainty from the Minister as to when they will be able to access school transport, if needed and the Department should have been more prepared and acted before the end of August to deal with additional pressures placed on the system by Covid.