Around eighty parents, carers, drivers and escorts attended a short-notice meeting at Swinton Royal Legion last night to find out more about Salford Council cuts to special needs transport and discuss how to stop them.
Salford Council currently has a proposal to axe £600,000 from its Passenger Transport Unit, slashing 24 jobs, including drivers and the escorts who accompany special needs people on journeys to places like day centres (for more details see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Despite the proposal not being policy until passed by a full meeting of Salford Council on 26th February, and then subject to a consultation, the meeting heard how people were already being taken off the buses through a process of `re-assessment' with much higher criteria applied.
Angry parents and carers railed at the implications for the transport cuts, which they believe will lead to the closure of the city's remaining day centres if people can't afford to use taxis to get there, or won't let their sons and daughters use already overstretched, budget-slashed services like Ring and Ride which doesn't provide escorts.
Overall, people just couldn't understand why the most vulnerable people in the city were being singled out for cuts that will have a major impact on their lives. Anger and disbelief were the themes of the meeting, relayed to Labour councillor Peter Wheeler who was the only representative from Salford Council.
"Why are they not protecting the most needy in society…Why is the Council cutting jobs that protect my disabled daughter?" asked one father, while a mother added "They're doing this to people like us because it's so hard for us to fight, life is hard enough…"
Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart – who pledged to protect the most vulnerable when first elected - had been invited to the Legion but chose not to attend, so it was agreed to demand a meeting with him so he could hear first hand about the impact of his decisions…
"I know the blame lies with the Government but also you Mr Stewart because you are not listening" said Noreen Bailey, a carer for three special needs adults, who had tried to contact the Mayor but her comments had been deleted from his Facebook page.
With support pledged from USUC (United Service Users Committee), Salford Against the Cuts and Salford City UNISON, the parents and carers agreed to `kick up a fuss', with petitions, face-to-face meetings with the councillors who will vote through the cuts and potential lobbies of the Council. And hopefully the wheels will come off this incredibly unfair transport cut…
To sign the Change.org petition against the transport and escort cuts – click here
Bus graphic by Jamie Reid