Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Bus Nightmare

Unfortunately, Adam taking the bus seems to have rapidly developed into a nightmare.  

I will freely confess that I am *very* protective of him (I think quite understandably!) and one of my "hot issues" is car seat safety.  When I was still pregnant, through the help of a good friend, I did a lot of research into car seats and eventually bought a special rear facing seat from Sweden that would continue to hold Adam until he weighed 25kg, or around age 4-5.  I now know that it is much MUCH safer to keep a child rear facing until their spines and necks are strong enough to cope with the impact of even a small collision.

All of that to say that, for me, turning him forward facing is actually a big deal and not something I have wanted to do before he's 25kg.  But when we made the decision to put Adam onto the transport buses run by the council, I had no option.  They only provide forward facing seats and, using the catch-all phrase of 'health and safety', they wouldn't allow us to provide them with a carseat.  However, we were assured that he would remain in a properly restrained child car seat (albeit forward facing) until he was 25kg.  At the moment, he is only just about 20kg.

When the bus rolled up on Tuesday, they had an child car seat fitted and ready for him.  But as the attendant was strapping him into it, I noticed one of the straps was twisted around - in a five point harness, this is a definite danger issue so I straightened it.  She didn't appear to notice.  I took a photo of him (which I have not shared because he was crying after bumping his face as I previously wrote about) but it wasn't until looking at this photo after the bus had left that I realised his *other* strap was also twisted - she hadn't noticed or straightened that and neither had I.  Thankfully, there were no bus accidents that day, but if there had been, this would have been the difference between a little bump and potentially serious injury for my son.  It's a big deal.

Yesterday, the bus rolled up and he was strapped into the seat and I noticed that this time, the three point seatbelt was being used instead of a five point harness, but she had left the section across Adam's tummy so loose it was at least four to six inches away from his body.  If there had been an accident, this would have allowed Adam to slide right out from inside the seat belt and again, risk serious injury.  Because I noticed this, I tightened it.  But as I stepped away, I noticed that Adam was in a different seat - no longer was it a child carseat with the five point harness we had been promised, it was just a highbacked booster seat typically used with older preschoolers.  I pointed it out and queried the change and she said they had issues with the previous seat "fitting".  Not knowing what that meant, I asked her to clarify and so she rang her supervisor and put me onto her.  I was informed that in fact, the first seat they had used was only rated to take an 18kg child so he never should have been in that in the first place and this was the only other option.  I wasn't happy but I also know that if Adam sees me becoming upset, then this triggers a meltdown because he is very sensitive to emotion and doesn't understand why Mummy might sometimes be upset.  I also know that if I had taken him off the bus, he would have had a meltdown as he is not able to cope with change like that.  

Despite not feeling happy about it, in a difficult situation, I allowed him to stay on the bus but once he had left for school, I had a perfectly polite but lengthy conversation with the Transport Manager for the Council.  She explained to me that in fact, the laws are different for buses and while children under 4'6" or around 12 years of age are required to use a carseat in a car, when travelling on a bus children over THREE are not required to use any kind of carseat at all!  She explained that simply in providing a booster seat, they are actually exceeding the law.  I was shocked and horrified.  A bus is still a moving vehicle, travelling on the road, why on earth are the laws so different?  She also confirmed that they would not allow us to buy and provide the bus with a carseat....for health and safety reasons.

I was really, really not happy (to say the least) and had a lengthy conversation with Adam's dad about it last night.  We decided that we needed to give this a chance to work and I possibly need to relax my protective stance over "my cub" just a little bit and so long as they provide a booster seat, we will consent to him travelling on the bus (which is what I had agreed with the Transport Manager).

So this morning, the bus arrives.........

.....and there is NO carseat AT ALL.

They expected him to sit on the ordinary bus seats, in an ordinary seatbelt at the age of THREE.  Worse still, the passenger carer insisted the message she had been given by the office was that I had consented to this.

How on earth does trying to BUY the council a suitable car seat and being refused translate into agreeing that he doesn't need one at all?!

Horrified does not even come close to my reaction.  And so, I was on the phone to the office again.  They also insisted I had agreed to Adam not using a carseat and said the only option was either him travelling as he was, me taking him off the bus and taking him to school myself or them sending out a separate bus just for him sometime later in the morning with a seat fitted.

I was FURIOUS and while entirely polite with the bus staff, made it perfectly clear this was not an acceptable situation.  I removed Adam from the bus and then, as it rolled away without him, had to cope with a complete screaming, thrashing meltdown from him as he didn't understand what he had done wrong to be taken off the bus.  Once I managed to wrap myself around him enough to get him into the house, it was full on containment procedures to help him come to terms with the situation.

An hour later, I took him to school and, because he was being walked away from me instead of having already endured the very difficult situation of 'goodbye Mummy' at bus time, another full on meltdown occurred requiring the specially trained school staff to surround and contain him in the hallway.  I walked away from my son with tears in my eyes as he screamed and thrashed on the floor, desperately reaching out to me.  Taking him into school myself meant that I could not attend Morning Prayer (and for those who don't know, as an ordained minister in the Church of England, this is a requirement for me) but thankfully, my Training Incumbent was very understanding about it.

At 9:01, Adam's dad was on the phone to the Council demanding answers...he received a verbal apology and was assured we would receive written confirmation that this situation would not recur and that *at bare minimum* Adam would be transported in a high backed booster seat with *no* exceptions.  We have not yet received this confirmation but I trust it will be coming.

We have both agreed that if this situation is resolved tomorrow - and stays resolved - then Adam can travel on the bus, if not, Chris will be altering his working hours to allow him to transport Adam to school each day.

This is not the smooth transition I had been hoping for!

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