Covid driver shortage leaves autistic boy without school transport

Charlene Goodman with son Kye.

Charlene Goodman with son Kye. - Credit: Charlene Goodman

Taxi staff shortages due to Covid have hit transport for pupils with special educational needs on the first day of the new term.

A mum whose eight-year-old son has autism said she had been given less than 12-hours notice that his usually dedicated taxi would be unable to either take him or return him from his specialist school. 

It comes after parents of SEND children across Norfolk claim to have been “left in limbo” over school transport.

Many parents said travel arrangements had not been confirmed and at least one child’s provisions had been cancelled.

The Wherry School, Norwich, which educates children with autism and opened in September 2017. Pictur

The Wherry School, Norwich, which educates children with autism. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Kye Brown, who is unable to be taught in mainstream education, has had an individual taxi from Sprowston to the Wherry School on Hall Road in Norwich, for the last two years.

His mum Charlene Goodman said she had received a message from transport providers United Taxi App on Sunday saying they would be unable to take him.

“I got a message to say staff had tested positive for coronavirus. They said his taxi was suspended until further notice,” she said.

“I said you need to have some sort of contingency plan because he is a little boy who is expecting to go to school and you cannot just say just that for the next two weeks you don’t have enough staff.”

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Ms Goodman said taking her other two children at school meant she would not be able to drop off Kye herself until as late as 10am and collect him at 1pm disrupting his education and routine. 

“SEND children have suffered more than a lot of others during the pandemic as their confusing world became even more impossible to understand. 

“The dire situation with transport is causing so much disruption to their lives and causing more undue unnecessary disruption to families.”

United Taxi App has been contacted for comment.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Coun

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “Where operators are having short-term difficulty providing transport because of the impact of the pandemic, we will work with them and with families to ensure this disruption is as minimal as possible.

“We understand that any disruption, however small, is difficult for families and can be upsetting for children. Even though this is beyond our control, we do apologise for the inconvenience caused.

“To date, issues with lack of driver availability have only affected a small minority of children.”