School Transport Scheme causing heartache for families – Clarke

Longford Westmeath TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke called on the Minister for Education to urgently intervene to expand capacity on the School Transport Scheme.

Teachta Clarke said a record number of students will be refused a school bus seat this year due to a total lack of planning by government.

“The government’s failure to expand capacity on the School Transport Scheme, in conjunction with the elimination of fares, is causing serious problems for families,” she said.

“The removal of fares has resulted in unprecedented numbers applying for the scheme, but because of the strict criteria in place, thousands of children who are categorised as ‘concessionary’ will now be refused a seat.

“To make matters worse, many of those who are being refused have used the scheme for years and this leaves their parents in difficult positions, as they cannot do the school runs due to work commitments and totally depend on the school bus.

“Families who expected to realise savings of €500 now look set, instead, to be heaped with additional costs as they try to find alternatives.

"My constituency offices in Mullingar, Athlone and Longford have been almost overwhelmed with the volume of contact from very worried families who have been paying for a service upon which they relied and now find themselves unable to get their children to school.

“It’s a spectacular failure of planning and turned what should be a good news story on fares into a nightmare for many who will now be left without seats. In the midst of an energy and cost of living crisis, many families are left with no choices as the option of public transport is not available to them.

“Sinn Féin have repeatedly called for the School Transport Scheme to be expanded and have proposed that 10,000 extra places should be added for 2023.

“Bus Éireann have been inundated with calls from parents desperate to get a seat for their children, but the responsibility for adding extra capacity lies solely with the minister for education.

“Unfortunately, Minister Foley appears to be missing in action, leaving no solution to this crisis.

“The minister must intervene urgently. She should instruct Bus Éireann to look within their own, and private bus sector, resources to expand capacity to ensure that no child is left without a seat.

“The opportunity exists to transform the school commute and to make this a really positive story but the minister must act now.”