I read an article in the Belfast Telegraph this afternoon and it’s left me feeling a little bit annoyed.
Annoyed at the topic, and annoyed at how such a poorly written article could even make it in to the paper in the first place. It reminded me why I stopped reading the newspapers a long time ago, because most of the stuff in it is rubbish.
The article, ‘£35 million spent on taxis taking children to school’ claimed that a ‘whopping’ £35 million had been spent over the last five years to transport some children to school via taxi. They said that this had taken a sizeable chunk from the £100 million annual school transport budget in Northern Ireland.
Wow, you might think, that is over a third of the yearly budget being spent on taxis. Remember though, the £35 million spent had been over five years, which meant the actual figure was £7 million a year. Less than 10%, not quite the sizeable chunk the Belfast Telegraph were making out.
All children in Northern Ireland are entitled to free travel to their closest suitable school, if they live a certain distance away. Currently, to be eligible for transport you must live more than 2 miles away from the closest suitable primary school, or 3 miles away from the closest high school. The majority of the children entitled to travel will do so on a school bus, with only a small minority being taken to school in a taxi.
Taxi travel is generally only given to children with special educational or medical needs, and I feel that is totally justified. Some children simply cannot cope with the demands of getting on a bus with a lot of children, or need a specialist wheelchair taxi to get to and from school. For a lot of children, these taxis are essential.
A local UKIP MLA is questioning why such a substantial amount is being spent on the taxis. Apparently, he too had fallen for the telegraphs clever wording, because in a short video on their website he mentions a third of the budget being spent on them. He goes on to say that he understands that some children have a right to taxi travel, such as those with special needs. Considering they are the only children who are given taxi travel, I don’t understand what point he is making? In fact, I don’t really understand the point of the whole article.
Children with extra needs are being sent to school in taxis, and it is costs money. How is that even news? They are telling us that each year a certain amount of money is spent on something that needs to be done…. it would be like writing an article ‘£100 million spent on medicine to cure people’. The article offers no information on how less money could be spent, but it written in such a tone that says ‘how disgraceful that we have to actually spend money on people that need it’.
Already there are comments being made on the online version of the article, what a disgusting waste of money, blah blah blah. Do these people not actually hear themselves? How is it disgusting that we spend money helping vulnerable children get to and from school? The board will only provide a taxi for a child it feel needs to travel in one, they certainly don’t just hand out free taxis for a laugh!
I understand, at a time when cuts are being made from lots of valuable services, people will look to see where more money can be saved. Perhaps there are ways in which cost effectiveness could be maximised, and there is nothing wrong with questioning that. I don’t know enough about the way it is currently run to really comment on ways to improve the service. Maybe if more research had been done, the newspaper could have given us a bit more information about it, and maybe some possible solutions, rather than just complaining about having to spend tax payers money.
Have you read the article? What do you think? Am I right to feel a bit annoyed by this?