Noreen Bailey is foster mum to three lads, aged between 24 and 43, who have severe disabilities and special needs. For a few days a week the lads go to the Waterside and Granville centres and are picked up by buses that have expert escorts on board to ensure their safety.
"Without them we wouldn't let our kids travel" Noreen explains "If they are having a fit or they're not well the escorts know when to bring them back. They are the ones who care for them while they are on the buses."
In line with ConDem Government cuts to Salford Council, and, in turn, Salford Council cuts to some of the most vulnerable people in the city, the escorts and most of the drivers are facing the axe in a £502,000 cut which Council officers coldly describe as a `Revised Vulnerable Adults Offer' for `in house transport provision'.
"We've been told they are going to stop all the escorts and they are cutting down the amount of adults who go on the coaches" says Noreen "But the Council doesn't realise how much it is taking away from us."
Noreen and other parents and carers pay for the service at £3.70 per day per person, after the Council introduced the charges last year. That adds up to over £26 a week for Noreen's lads…
"What annoys me is that we pay, it's a good service and the escorts are there to keep our kids safe, so now what are we supposed to do?" she asks "They are saying that the people who work at the centres will have to transport the people but I've no idea how they are going to do that. If the Council has its way, transport is going to go down and they are going to end up closing the centres because people can't get there."
Samantha, whose brother has special needs, and Sue, who has a special needs child, are equally upset about the cuts.
"They don't understand that a lot of the mothers work, so they rely on the transport to drop their sons and daughters off at the centres and then bring them either home or to a relations house" Sue says "They will have to give up work to get the adults to the centres and to pick them up again. And a lot of parents don't even drive.
"I just think it's disgusting" she adds "It's always our kids and adults – they've closed The Grange, they've closed Craig Hall, now this…it's always us."
Margaret Tunnacliffe was one of the mums who campaigned against the closure of short term respite care at The Grange for her young special needs son. She, and other parents, got labelled `Rent-a-crowd' by Salford Mayor Ian Stewart for their efforts (see here). Now her daughter, Lucy, will be affected by this latest cut…
"It's not enough we had to fight for our children's respite, now we have to fight for our daughter to keep transport to get her to and from her adult respite" she says "The Mayor certainly doesn't care that he has stopped the help for moderated disabled adults and children, now he has to attack the escorts taking them to and from school/respite and they are needed so much. That man may as well go to the other side because he is not working for the people of Salford but for those lot who are in Government."
Now Noreen Bailey has issued a public challenge to the Salford Mayor to come to a public meeting called by parents and carers this coming Monday, 10th February at Swinton Royal Legion (for full details see below)…
"If you are a true Labour Mayor you will not ignore us, you will come along and listen to what we have to say and show us that you care what happens" she wrote.
"I went on his Facebook and he just deleted me!" says Noreen "I just wish he'd meet me. I would like him to come to the meeting. This is making people angry…everywhere we go we're hitting a brick wall, nobody wants to listen to us. But we've got to fight this, otherwise everything is going to go.
"We want them to know that we won't sit down, we've all got to stand up and be counted now because it's not getting better it's getting worse. It's horrendous, an absolute disgrace. We pay for something but it's not for our kids."
Sue points to the bridges, the fountain, Media City and the salaries of 13 Assistant Mayors… "It's all show, show, show" she says "The old Salford was never like that, it was about the people, we all pulled together. This isn't about what we want, it's about what we need…"
Noreen has also launched a petition against the cuts to transport escorts on Change.org (for details see below) which asks for people to not only sign but also to give reasons for signing. One of the first comments on the site was from Jane, an escort facing the axe…
"I am employed by Salford to take a young adult to college" she writes "I've worked on transport buses taking children to primary school for nine years. It's a job I love, you build up a great relationship with the children and young adults, and the parents and carers. They put their trust in you to take their child to school or college. It's not a case of just strapping them in and sitting in a seat, you have a great responsibility to make sure they arrive safe and happy.
"If any issues arise you help them as best as you can" she adds "But most importantly the children get to know you and trust you. I have made friends with many parents and also with the children. I am not writing this in fear of losing a job I love, I am writing this for the sake of the children and young adults, parents and carers who need this vital service. Please don't let the most vulnerable people of our society lose out once again because of cut backs…"
The parents, carers and workers are being backed in the fight against the cuts by Salford City UNISON, and treasurer Ameen Hadi told the Salford Star…
"Salford City UNISON expresses our full support and solidarity with the carers fighting for transport for their severely disabled children, and we offer our help in any way to get the Council to reverse its proposal."
With millions of pounds set aside in Salford Council's budget for cuts it cannot implement (see previous Salford Star article – click here) the parents and carers are hoping that Salford Mayor Ian Stewart will turn up on Monday, hear about the impact of his proposals and back off from hitting the most vulnerable people in Salford yet again…
Cuts To Special Needs Transport Public Meeting
Monday 10th February 6:30pm
Swinton Royal Legion
Cheetham Road, Salford M27 4UQ
To sign Noreen's Change.org petition – click here
Photo shows Noreen, Samantha and pet dog Pip