05/09/2006

Government funding for school bus safety

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) has today welcomed a government cash boost for the provision of safer transport for children travelling to and from school.

Just two months ago NICCY research, in co-operation with the Department of Regional Development and the General Consumer Council, produced several recommendations, many of which the government are now planning to implement.

NICCY Commissioner, Barney McNeany, said today’s announcement was a welcome injection of money to a school transport system that children and young people had been worried about for some time.

He said: “Children themselves told us of their concerns over safety.

“Issues like the three for two rule, which allowed three pupils to occupy a seat designed for two people, obviously compromised safe travel.”

He continued: “The research, which we launched in June with DRD and the Consumer Council, highlighted this issue as well as parents anxiety over the lack of safety belts on school buses.

“This announcement will go some way to addressing the issues identified in our research, but I hope that the implementation programme can be speeded up so that the risk to children and young people is reduced as quickly as possible.”

Mr McNeany said that school transport was a complex area, and that parents, children and political representatives have been in contact with NICCY for more than a year expressing disquiet about how children and young people get to and from school.

He added: “While this investment goes a long way to address many issues there are other areas which I will be taking forward with the Minister and her representatives, such as rural school transport, over16s school travel costs and transport of children with special educational needs.

“I have asked the Minister to establish an implementation group to make sure that her plans are put in place as soon as possible. I have also asked her to agree to carry out research in three year’s time to measure the impact of her plans on safe school transport.”

(EF)

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