We had a week of respite at the hospice last week and this time I think it has actually allowed me to recoup some of my energy. I have been meaning to write this update to the transport battle since before we went away but events got away from me a bit.
A fortnight ago, we finally got some resolution. The Transport Commissioning Manager, the Fleet Co-Ordinator and the SEN Casework Manager came out to our house for a meeting. The solution they proposed was that one of the SCC fleet of minibuses would come and pick N up in the morning and drop her home at night, fitting the run in before they did their other routes. N went off on Monday morning in the bus, with her escort, waving to us all like the Queen. She's absolutely delighted with herself being grown up enough to go on her VERY OWN BUS TO SCHOOL.
I have learned various things from this whole experience.
Firstly, I estimate I have easily put forty hours of my time in to sorting this out. This is time that I could have been using to parent or to work. Or even rest, maybe! If I hadn't been able to carve that time out, we would have been stuffed. We would also have been stuffed if I wasn't articulate, well-educated and bolshy. In my opinion, a way for parents to exchange information about this sort of thing would be really helpful - I have set up a fb group aimed at parents in Somerset for this reason. Linky on the right sidebar at the top.
Secondly, why did I have to raise a formal complaint, get my local councillor and my MP involved? I also threatened SCC with the media. I am not sure which of these, if any, had any effect.
Thirdly, and most importantly in my view - all the other issues fall out of this - why is Somerset County Council's SEN system so inflexible that one person out of commission means the entire system grinds to a halt? It transpired during the meeting that our SEN Caseworker has been dealing with a close family bereavement and has not been in work very much. This explains why they were so difficult to get hold of. It's simply wrong for a public service funded by the tax payer to support vulnerable children and their families to be so fragile. For a senior manager to sit in my living room and say (paraphrasing) 'Yes, it was all a bit of a mess, we couldn't get in to the SEN Caseworker's inbox and when we did there were all these emails!' is simply unacceptable. All along, their communication with me has been pants.
I know budgets are tight and I know that councils are having to tighten their belts all over the place. But I think that a case can be made for Somerset having gone to far. And if they have gone too far in the SEN department, where else have they pared the system back so far that it is simply no longer robust enough to cover staff having time off?
I don't want to live in a society where we don't look after our most vulnerable members. I don't want to be part of a community that has been so divided by biased media reports and government spin that a large number of it's members actually believe that all people on benefits are scroungers. I also don't want to live in a community that doesn't support the unionisation of workers for better pay and conditions - some of the rhetoric on the Bishops Lydeard facebook page in response to a bulletin about the school being closed for strike action tomorrow is mean and spiteful.
I am grateful that this issue is now resolved. But I have no faith at all that I am not going to have to fight similar battles on N's behalf again and again and again over the coming years. My friend N, who blogs at Colour It Green said to me some time ago that 'being the parent of a child with special needs shapes you as a person. This is not necessarily a bad thing'. I don't like the person that I am becoming and I need to find a way to change that.
In other news, my rabbit bite has healed and a long-time blog-friend is coming to visit us for the first time ever, in August. So there are some good things happening.
For today, that is all.