Belfast Telegraph

Mum of Down's girl accuses Northern Ireland health trust of going back on travel costs pledge

By Donna Deeney

The mother of a girl with Down's syndrome girl has accused the Western Trust of reneging on a funding agreement for her daughter.

Aoife McGerty (20) started a Life and Living Skills course at the South West College in Enniskillen at the start of last month for for three-and-a-half days a week with one day on work placement.

The Education Authority (EA) covered the cost of the course, but Maureen McGerty applied to the Western Trust for help to cover Aoife's travel costs from home in Derrylin to college.

Mrs McGerty was informed by the trust in a letter in August that Self Directed Support funding of £172.20 was approved "for carer to make appropriate arrangements to facilitate college attendance".

This means the trust allows the carers - in this case Mrs McGerty - to decide how the money is used. However, it has not been paid into the account set up by Aoife's mother for her care needs.

Mrs McGerty said: "The Life and Living Skills course run by the South West College is for disabled people like Aoife; she really wanted to do this course and she has the right to further her education. The Western Trust has left us hanging by not advancing this money into the account we set up for Aoife's care, but not one pence is in the account. Aoife has been attending the course because I didn't want her to miss out, but the taxi firm that has been transporting Aoife to and from college will be sending me a bill, so I need the trust to release this money.

"I have contacted the Western Trust, but no one can tell me why this money isn't being transferred. I raised this with the chief executive of the Western Trust Anne Conncannon at two public meetings held in Enniskillen and asked her why has this not been sorted out, and she promised me she would contact me. I have had no phone calls, no emails, nothing."

Yesterday the EA told Mrs McGerty it had made arrangements with a taxi firm to ferry Aoife to and from college from this month. Mrs McGerty said that while this was welcome news, there was still an outstanding bill for September and the cost of taking Aoife to her work placement once a week.

She raised the matter with her local MLA, Arlene Foster.

Mrs Foster said: "I am delighted that there is now certainty around Aoife's transport to the college and the Education Authority have confirmed they will fund this from now on.

"There are still outstanding issues to resolve in relation to the case, but I will continue to support Maureen in seeking a successful resolution to these."

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: "We are unable to comment on individual cases due to patient/client confidentially."

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