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I won't pay for disabled son's travel

PUBLISHED: 16:53 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:47 03 July 2010

DEFIANT: William Hickman has said he will push son Paul to his school in Caister and back if necessary.

DEFIANT: William Hickman has said he will push son Paul to his school in Caister and back if necessary.

Alan Thompson

A GREAT Yarmouth father has angrily hit out at the county council for what he calls “charging” his disabled teenage son to attend John Grant Special School in Caister.

A GREAT Yarmouth father has angrily hit out at the county council for what he calls “charging” his disabled teenage son to attend John Grant Special School in Caister.

William Hickman said he wasn't aware he would have to pay for the transport for 17 year old son Paul to go from his Ferrier Road home to Caister - and was shocked to receive a bill for £159 to cover the year.

Cerebral palsy sufferer Paul has attended John Grant since he was five years old - he also has learning difficulties and needs a wheelchair to get around.

Mr Hickman said: “I was originally assured by the county council there would be no charge for transporting him to school each day but just over a month ago I received a bill for £159 for the year and I just can't pay it.

“I am a pensioner with Paul and his twin Thomas at home. Thomas is at college and doing fine, but I still need to look after Paul.”

Former builder Mr Hickman, 65, said with the money he receives in benefits and pension, and although his rent and council tax is paid as he has a disabled son, he says there is not much money left for others things.

He said: “Out of the remainder of the money I have to buy food and pay the bills everyone else does, water, gas and electricity. We are at poverty level.

“I think it's an absolute disgrace that I have been asked to pay for the transport by bus. How do they expect us to live? What kind of society charges disabled children to go to school?”

But Norfolk County Council's head of people and student care, Richard Snowdon said that although payment would have to be made, if someone is having difficulty they should contact the council immediately.

He said: “There was a change in our policy last September to make a charge of half of what the fare would normally be. We held a consultation with everyone affected at the time.

“The cost was set at £159 per year with the option of paying in two instalments or if that proved difficult for some people, there are more flexible options. We do set aside a hardship fund for a short-term solution, so if anyone feels they are in that position they should contact us and we can discuss it.

“The alternative for not making a charge was to withdraw the bus service altogether and that is something nobody wanted.”

Mr Hickman, who separated from his partner when both boys were still at school, said: “I fought for custody of the boys. I have to do my best for them. I am not paying the school bus costs, if necessary I'll push Paul in his wheelchair to Caister and push him back every day if I have to.”

ends

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