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Transport for education

Background   HBTSR has helped with the cost of bus passes for a few college students for many years. We knew education was crucial to their well-being and future and that free bus transport would enable students living at a distance, with responsibilities that eroded travel times  or disability to access college in a timely ,safe manner.   This help was not too difficult to organise as the college had negotiated a cheaper pass, had suitable eligibility criteria and kind volunteers offered to purchase the passes on our behalf.

This academic year, an alternative funding source was identified and all asylum seeking full time college students were enabled to have bus passes.

So we turned to considering students that we had previously felt were too difficult to help – school aged children living under 3 miles from school who had no access to free transport. There were no reduced passes, paying for bus tickets relied upon finding someone prepared to go to the bus station to buy them and we also knew that very many children of all  ages and backgrounds were affected. Occasional cases had been assisted when  volunteers made a special case,  offered to purchase tickets  on behalf of children living nearly 3 miles from school travelling up steep hills  and with other issues. However this was intermittent and always felt like there was a very big unmet demand that we’d never manage to cope with.

It was also an issue that could affect all children but  children in asylum seeking families didn’t have any control over where they lived , might be moved mid year, were frequently living with trauma and the family really could not afford to pay for transport. Walking to school in the dark, over difficult terrain and in all weathers was an added problem for children who had already suffered so much.

The trigger In November 2022, we had two separate requests from two different voluntary support groups  for the same two siblings living 2.9 miles from school with very steep hills in their journey . They had been re-accommodated with their family further from school  but didn’t want to have their studies compromised by changing schools. However the cost to help them was in excess of £60 per month….It felt like time to see if we could do better.

We asked EYST for views upon what we could do to help these  and other students and to draw attention to this issue…Sophie came back with a proposal that HBTSR trustees and hardship group considered, refined and supported. Crucially she also identified that Catherine would run the project….

The project started in February 2023, i.e. the first week after half-term, and is run by the Sanctuary Hub from EYST Swansea  with funding from  Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees group.
The objective is to support up to 25 children in  Swansea  travelling to  secondary schools or studying towards their GCSEs for the five weeks between February half-term and the Easter break.

Project Details

Target Asylum Seeking children   who are existing clients of EYST Sanctuary Hub– under 16 years old and going to secondary school / studying towards their GCSEs
Tickets to be used by the young person for school and only during school term.
Time frame: the five weeks between February Half-term and Easter Holiday (not the summer term)
Focus on winter term when children have to walk long distance in poor weather and in the dark
School should be  over 2 miles from the house address but under 3 miles as would then qualify for free school transport.
The client should have been in touch with the council to ask for travel assistance to go to school and the council has refused to offer support.

This email really made an impression.

Hey, how are you. I am so sorry about the late hour. I know you have also a private life behind that but i really need your help at this point.
I have told you about the school and the problem that i have with the transport. So today it was really raining a lot like the other days that are comming too and it was impossible to walk to school so i just took the bus. I changed 2 busses to go there and that cost me 3 pounds. When i finished school it was raining again but i walked home beacause i didnt have that lot of money with me. But you know the problem is that it will be raining days for all the weeks and in that case you cant walk to school. To go every day with the bus it cost 3 pounds to go to school amd 3 again to come back home. That means 6 pounds a day and its very expensive for us. Beacuse imagine 6 pounds for every day of week means 35 pound per week. Its unposible for us to afford it as i only bacome for myself from the home office 40 pound per week.
I understand that maybe you cant make change anything but i just wanted to say that to you beacuse maybe a chance or something else comes up.
If you want i can show you a photo of the bus prices today maybe you know anything what to do and we can just show them as a fact.🙂

EK, 15 years old, asylum seeker in Swansea

The Report from Catherine Plagne-Ismail

At the end of the first week we have supported 14 young people.
We gave tickets to cover week 1 and week 2. Some families had already purchased their tickets or could not come to the office on the Monday of week 1, so we only supplied for part of the week, as needed by the clients. The tickets could be daily or weekly tickets depending on the individual circumstances.

We supplied 102 tickets to 14 children to cover week 1 and week 2.
A discount was given by First Cymru on the regular prices, so these are the prices we paid for:
Ticket prices:

Daily ticket for under 16                 £3.12
Daily ticket for 16-21 years old       £2.67
Weekly ticket for 16-21 years old   £13.35

All tickets were given with a specified date and age range (usually under 16) so they could only be used by the pupils and only during school days. Where daily tickets were used, only five were given per week, from Monday to Friday.
The pupils we support go to Bishopgore, Bishop Vaughan and Pentrehafod secondary schools. They live between 1.7 and 3.2 miles from the school and usually walk the distance, however difficult they might find it.

In December 2012, EM has made a request to the Swansea Council for transport assistance for his son, Year 10, who has to walk to Bishopgore daily (about 1.7 miles). EM explained that his son had developed blisters on both feet and it had affected his mental health. He noticed that his son was tired when he was reaching home, after walking up the hills to go back home, he felt sad and lonely, and generally not his usually happy self. The transport assistance request was rejected nevertheless.
Our project has allowed to give some support to this young person, and as the dad told us, for once he felt that someone was listening and supporting them.

Another child, AA, year 10, walks 2.1 miles to go to Bishopgore and is struggling to carry her bag because she has scoliosis. The parents have asked for transport assistance with letters of support from the GP, but again, it was rejected.

Initial budget £1,552.50
Funds in £518.00
Week 1 £124.60
Week 2 £210.93
Total spending £335.53
as of 03/03/2023 £182.47


As we go into the second week of our project, we realise that we have given less tickets than expected.

The first reason is the distance: some families did not qualify where we realised that the distance home-school was close to 1 mile and the child was mentally and physically able to walk the distance.
The second reason is that we focused on secondary schools, so we did not offer tickets to primary school children who are being offered a place out of their catchment area. Increasingly however, because of the constraints of the statutory maximum class sizes from the Local Authority some children as young as 5 are offered a place in schools up to two miles away from home.
For some particular cases, it feels as if we could pursue the project into the summer term, in particular where the distance was over 3 miles (for post-16 young people doing fast-track GCSE) or where there is a health concern (mental or physical health).
Finally we restricted our support to families seeking asylum. However through discussions with our clients, we realised that refugee families could also benefit from the project. Although the Welsh Government is currently offering free transport to refugees with a valid BRP, some refugee children are missing out: for example where the BRP card is missing or lost, or if the bus drivers are confused between BRPs and ARC cards and refuse them free access to the bus.

Ultimately, as we go into the second week of our project, it has been absolutely amazing to see the happy faces of teenagers and parents collecting the tickets. Our clients expressed much gratitude to the fact that we remembered their issues, we thought of them and we called them one by one to offer support. From their reaction, it was obvious that offering free bus tickets was a massive mental boost.
So from our team at the Sanctuary Hub, thank you to the Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees group for making this possible.