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Achill parents call for transport for special needs adults


PLIGHT Iseult McHugh.

Anton McNulty

THE mother of a young autistic adult says her son is regressing after he has been unable to attend educational services in Castlebar because there is no transport to bring him from his home in Achill. Twenty-year-old Danny Vesey from the Valley on Achill Island has been unable to continue his education after leaving St Anthony’s Special School in Castlebar in 2017 because there is no transport available to bring him to Castlebar to attend the National Learning Network.
His mother, Mary, is unable to bring him to Castlebar each day, and she told The Mayo News that Danny now faces a third year without a specialist service.
“I have been fighting and fighting with the HSE and I have been been told that there is no funding for transport from Achill. Danny should attend the National Learning Network in Castlebar but there is no transport available to get him there for 9.30am and bring him back at 4pm when they finish. I have three other children at home and I cannot afford to be driving up and down to Castlebar.
“This will be his third year out of education and I can see that Danny is regressing at this stage. I do the best I can, I take him to the library and bring him to the gym and out of the house, but he is becoming more dependent on me. He tends to look for me all the time now and not bother speak to other people. That is not good for Danny or me either,” she said.
Danny attended secondary school in St Anthony’s. Transport was available to pick him up from his home in Achill in the morning and leave him back home in the evening.
The only transport option available for people with special needs is to get a Western Care bus to Newport which leaves Achill Sound at 8.30am. However, Mary says, this is not practical as it only arrives in Castlebar for 11am and Danny will have to leave the centre at 2.30pm to get home.
“That is the option I was told to take, but why should someone have to travel for six hours a day for two hours of a service, when lunch is also taken into account. Nobody would do that, and why should we have to accept it? Danny may be in the middle of something he is enjoying when he has to leave because he has to get a bus. It really is not an option,” she explained.
John McHugh from Dooagh on Achill Island is facing a similar situation to Mary since his 19-year-old daughter Iseult finished secondary school in May. She is due to attend the Rehab Care in the National Learning Network but he has also been told that transport will not be available.
“There is no transport for young people with special needs living in Achill and other areas of Mayo to attend day services in Castlebar. Iseult desperately needs a service. She has a combination of a learning disability and physical issues. If she does not get services she regresses and gets bored and distracted if she does not have a routine,” he said.
Mary said there are other parents in Achill who will soon be in similar positions to her and John. She is calling on the HSE to fund a pilot scheme to provide transport.
“I know there is more than me who will be affected by the lack of transport. I have been fighting the HSE for the last three years, and John is now fighting them, and it will be someone else’s fight next year. Why should we have to fight for our children’s needs? The supports should be available for everyone,” she added.