This week I listened to one of the most difficult presentations of my life. I feel it is something I should comment on but I hardly know where to start.
At QRoutes we sell market-leading software that helps school transport planners plan home to school transport for special educational needs and disabilities children.
We boast that our product helps find efficiencies that mean more children can access educational and social opportunities for lower per-passenger cost and that the quality of the planning ensures those children complete their journeys within the recommended time.
We like to believe what we do delivers value in human as well as monetary ways.
And that’s all true. It’s just that when the mother of a disabled young man stands up and tells their stories, hers and her son’s, it’s humbling and gives urgency to the process of helping planners find the best solutions.
Mike (not his real name) was born with severe disabilities but he went to school, met other children, and got out and about. That gave Jane (also not her real name) the space to get her ‘A’ levels, then a degree, and finally to become an English teacher. Jane felt life was on the up and dreamed of moving out of rented accommodation and buying a house.
But when Mike turned 16, his home-to-school transport was withdrawn and everything changed for them both.
Jane’s salary didn’t stretch to paying for the assisted transport Mike needs but she couldn’t take Mike to school herself and keep her job.
So Mike had to stop going to school. At a time when the world is opening up for most teenagers, his world began to shrink.
And Jane had to give up her job to look after him. She can’t earn more than £250 a month as that jeopardises the benefits she relies on. Tragically, she believes she’ll never be able to work as a teacher again – a job she loved.
The decision to withdraw transport for 16+ is a policy choice because of pressure on budgets.
It’s a choice that is devastating for families like Jane and Mike; I hope it wasn’t an easy choice to make; it can’t be easy for the officers who have to enforce it.
While QRoutes is a market leader in finding the best solutions for routing home-to-school children with complex needs, listening to Jane, and the impact Mike’s transport has had on their respective lives, writing a clever piece of software sounds like the easy bit.