Children with disabilities are among those who found themselves without a school bus place on the eve of the return to school.
Hundreds of children are thought to be without a school bus place at the last minute, after Bus Éireann said ‘difficulties had arisen’ with some routes.
It said it is working to source transport in the affected areas as soon as possible; however, it remains unclear how long this will take.
In the meantime, parents are scrambling to put new arrangements in place for this week – despite paying for their school bus tickets earlier this year.
On Newstalk Breakfast, Enable Ireland School Parents Association Dublin Chair Catherine Rossiter said some of the children affected have complex special needs.
“These children need buses to get to school because predominantly they are wheelchair users,” she said.
“They are vulnerable children. Only three to four children will travel on each school bus and they have a bus escort.
“There are four nurses working in the school with 40-odd children so that will give you some idea of the level of complexity that we are talking about in terms of the various ranges of the disabilities that are in play.”
She said she understand the issue is that Bus Éireann subcontractors are handing back routes because they are not lucrative enough or because they don’t have enough drivers or buses.
“Some of these children cannot make their way to school without the bus,” she said. “They desperately need the bus because of the complex nature of their disability.
“The minister needs to incentivise those routes and to ringfence funding and buses for children in special education schools.
“That is not to disrespect children in mainstream schools who need buses – but our children are not in a position to go on public transport to school.
“So I ask the minister to ringfence bus services for those children from here onwards and then to incentivize or whatever else is needed to protect those children and give them their right as citizens of the State to education.”
Ms Rossiter said parents don’t know when the situation will be resolved.
“It is open ended,” she said. “The parents don’t know when they will get a bus; if they will get a bus.
“They now have to get their children to school every morning and pick them up in the afternoon.
“Some parents are working. Some have children in mainstream school that they need to get to school – I know myself from times when the bus is cancelled how stressful that can be.”
Bus Éireann has said it is experiencing difficulties with around 2% of its mainstream school bus routes.
It has contacted families directly and plans to make grants available if the issues are not addressed by the end of the week.
As of last week, nearly 126,000 school bus tickets had been issued to children – an 18% increase on this time last year.