Wednesday, 14 September 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I wish to be clear, and it is important to note, that when the announcement was made, it was made in respect of those who avail of the school transport system and are eligible for it. There was no change of criteria in that respect. It was made very clear that the announcement was for those who were eligible for the school transport scheme.
It is significant to note the numbers. This time last year we had 103,000 tickets issued and students availing of the system. At this point we have 124,000 availing of the school transport system, and availing of it free of charge, so it has been a considerable cost-of-living measure for many families, for many of them amounting to €650.
I referred to the review because it was specifically referred to in the questions put to me as part of the Commencement matter. The review is ongoing and is charged with looking at eligibility, so there may well be an opportunity going forward to change eligibility, but there was nothing about changed eligibility in the announcement.I do not for one minute underestimate any of the difficulties for the families in accessing the school transport system. It is for that reason that I initiated the review in the first instance.
Where there are specific challenges, we continue to work through them. It is fair to say that there have been challenges in terms of additional buses and drivers, but excellent work is going on there and those who are eligible are being catered for. Where there is scope to do otherwise, as we have seen previously where there is additional capacity as a consequence of those eligible being catered for, which will continue going forward, then there will be provision made going forward.
I continue to look at every possible avenue that we have. I continue to look at resources, including in discussions with the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, with regard to it going forward. It is a significant achievement that 124,000 children are availing of free transport at this point.
I specifically wish to reference a question that was raised in terms of special education. There should be no issue there. I would appreciate if the Senator would share the details of that case with me because there should not be an issue when it comes to special education.