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Mother of ‘vulnerable’ woman voices frustration at loss of respite transportation since pandemic

The mother – and sole carer – of a vulnerable woman living in Tandragee has spoken of her “constant battle” to access suitable and safe transportation for her daughter to respite services.

The 61-year-old mother – who prefers to remain anonymous – has said that her daughter was receiving transportation through the Southern Trust from Appleby Social Education Centre, Armagh to Woodlawn House, Dungannon every six weeks, prior to Covid, for respite care.

Since the pandemic, she says, the transportation service has not resumed with no explanation given.

Her adult daughter – who has Rubinstein–Taybi syndrome – is described as having ‘severe behaviour issues’ and requires a harness during travel for the safety of herself and others.

She said: “She had a harness specially put in place on the bus which was risk assessed and deemed fit for purpose to make the journey safe. She is unable to be safely transported to respite in a normal vehicle due to safety concerns of her climbing out of her seatbelt and hitting out at the driver.

“They told me that nobody gets transport now to and from daycare to respite. So I got my own wee private ambulance last year but she kicked off in the ambulance in June and August; she hit out at staff and all the members and she hit out at me. It wasn’t safe. She was standing up in the ambulance and they had to turn and come home.

“It was costing £40 each way but I wouldn’t have minded that if it was safe.

“However, I found out that there are others getting the transport from daycare to respite. It’s not fair that they are getting transport and we’re not.

“There were never any issues on the bus when she was in the harness so I can’t understand why they won’t just take her if the bus is there and taking others.”

There have also been ongoing issues with respite being cancelled as a result of the lack of appropriate transportation.

She continued: “Respite has been cancelled because they said there is no transport for her. The bus is parked up in daycare and it’s not being used and the Trust are cancelling the day before she’s due to go because there is no Trust bus for her. That respite could even be used for someone else.

“She’s already been cancelled twice this year so far. She’s due to go back again on March 7 but we need to know what’s going on before then to make sure this one isn’t cancelled too.

“All I’m asking for is a simple bus that’s safe for her and everybody that takes her from daycare to respite and back again. I’m not asking for millions! If others are getting it, I just want to know why my daughter isn’t.”

The bus in question was temporarily provided to the service user for transportation to respite whilst her mother underwent major surgery. However, the complainant stated that she was told it would only be a ‘once off’.

She said: “I don’t just need respite for her when I’m in hospital. I need respite back!

“She doesn’t understand and she takes it out on me. She hits out and throws chairs and has swung on my hair. It’s just once every six weeks. It’s all I’m asking.”

A spokesperson for the Southern Trust commented: “We appreciate the demands on families and carers of individuals with a learning disability and complex needs and recognise the importance of short break provision for these families.

“Whilst we are unable to comment on any individual patient, we acknowledge that transport requirements for some clients are very complex and as such options are limited. Our relevant professionals will continue to engage with individuals and their families.”

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