A severely autistic boy was dropped off more than a mile away from his house by a taxi driver because he couldn’t do up his seatbelt, his mother has claimed. Owen Williams, 14, was on his way to Maesgwyn Special School in Aberdare on Monday morning when the incident happened. The 14-year old, who suffers from a number of sensory issues, such as sensitive hearing and problems with touch, was allegedly kicked out of his taxi and left in Maerdy.
He then had to cross five junctions to make his way home alone, despite having no danger awareness or road safety experience. His mother Janette Williams, 45, from Ferndale in the Rhondda, Wales, says she was left ‘livid’ and ‘shaken up and shocked’ by the ordeal, while Owen was left ‘rocking and flapping’ in fright.
Janette said: ‘I put Owen in the taxi and as I shut the door I said to him, as I always do when he gets in the car; ‘Don’t forget your belt please’. ‘I could see Owen was grabbing his seat belt, but as they drove off one of them must have told him again to put his seat belt on – because he hadn’t clipped it in yet.’ Owen also suffers from a number of other issues, including Pathological Demand Avoidance, which means he finds it difficult to do what people tell him.
Janette said: ‘He doesn’t like being told what to do. You’ve got to suggestively talk to him, instead of directly telling him. He [Owen] told me they were shouting at him to put his belt on, but the thing is with Owen, you can’t do that. ‘It will send him from 0-1000 straight away and then the meltdown starts and he goes on one.’ Owen had been picked up at around 8.10am on Monday by a taxi contracted by J&O Taxis – who transport children to and from the school on behalf of the council.
By the time the taxi had travelled to the next child’s house in Maerdy, Janette said the situation had escalated. As the taxi pulled up outside the next house, Janette says Owen was told to ‘get out of the taxi’. She claims the taxi driver was instructed by their manager to drop Owen outside his house, but he was instead dropped more than a mile away in Maerdy.
Shortly after Janette, who had been about to leave the house, heard a knock on her front door. She said: ”My stomach just dropped seeing him. I thought; ‘Where have you come from’? This was at 9am – he left me at 8.10am. ‘Owen said: “They told me to get out of the taxi. They left me. They left me.” ‘He was shaking and flapping- he flaps to try to calm himself down. He was rocking. Owen’s got no danger awareness. And he’s got hyper-sensitive hearing. If he hears a bus or motorbike or something else, he panics and he starts to run. ‘I can’t believe how the taxi drivers would leave a 14 year old child. Even if he didn’t have autism. You wouldn’t leave them.’ The owner of the taxi firm has denied that Owen was asked to leave the taxi and said the ‘miscommunication’ was down to ‘human error’. He said ‘We would never tell him [Owen] to get out of the car. He got out on his own accord and would not get back in. But, we can only apologise profusely. It should never have happened.
‘If I knew Owen wasn’t outside his house, they [the drivers] would never have left him. It was a human mistake that should never have happened and was a miscommunciation. ‘I have put things in place to make sure it never happens again and can only apologise again.’
A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said: ‘The Council is committed to providing vulnerable learners with transport to school which is safe and does not cause an unreasonable level of stress. ‘The Integrated Transport Unit was made aware of a serious incident on Monday morning. The contract to provide school transport for this learner was immediately suspended and emergency arrangements have been put in place with another contractor. ‘The matter has been referred to the Council’s Safeguarding Team for a full investigation.’
Two private hire drivers have been successfully prosecuted at MK Magistrates’ Court for illegally plying for hire (blagging).
Olusina Moses Akeem Aruna and Shahid Farooq were caught illegally picking up passengers in Milton Keynes during an early morning enforcement operation carried out by Milton Keynes Council in July last year.
Olusina Moses Akeem Aruna accepted a journey which had not been pre-booked from MK Station to Bletchley on 5 July 2018 at 11:10am. Further investigations showed that the vehicle used by the driver was not insured for this journey. Mr Aruna attended Court on 11 January 2019 and pleaded guilty to plying for hire and driving without valid motor insurance on 5 July 2018. He was fined £153 for plying for hire, £461 for invalid motor insurance, given 6 points on his DVLA licence, and also has to pay costs of £735 with a victim surcharge of £46.
Shahid Farooq accepted a journey which had not been pre-booked from Milton Keynes Station to Bletchley on 12 July 2018 at 9:25am. Further investigations showed that the vehicle used by the driver was not insured for this journey. Mr Farooq did not attend and was found guilty in his absence to plying for hire and driving without valid motor insurance on 12 July 2018. He was fined £220 for plying for hire, £660 for invalid motor insurance, given 6 points on his DVLA licence, and also has to pay costs of £735 with a victim surcharge of £66.
At the time of the offences Mr Aruna’s vehicle was operated by Uber and licensed by Transport for London. Mr Farooq’s vehicle was operated by Speedline and licensed by South Northants Council. TFL and SNC will take appropriate action in regard to the Private Hire/Hackney Carriage driver licences.
Chair of MKC’s Taxi Licensing Committee, Cllr Catriona Morris, said: “These two cases should highlight to drivers licensed by outside councils/agencies that enforcement operations are conducted during all hours in Milton Keynes and if they illegally ply for hire then they will be caught.”
“I hope that outside private hire drivers are getting the message that if they come to Milton Keynes and illegally ply for hire then the consequences for them will be severe.”
Scotland’s biggest taxi firm has installed defibrillators in 15 of their Glasgow cabs and trained drivers how to help people having heart attacks.
Drivers for Glasgow Taxis will be able to use the devices to assist with any incidents of cardiac arrest in or near to their cabs as they travel around the city.
Working in partnership with Defib Machines, the company said it will roll out more defibrillators to further vehicles if the initiative is successful.
Stephen Flynn, chairman of Glasgow Taxis Ltd, said: “We don’t just drive taxis and take people from A to B, we are committed to giving back whether that’s through charitable support, fundraising events or this latest initiative.
“By introducing 15 potentially life-saving defibrillators to our taxis we are utilising the very natural willingness of our drivers to help people along with a test of the benefits of having these machines available in our vehicles, not only for driver use but to the wider communities of Glasgow.
“It’s a modest outlay which we have committed to over a three-year period and if even one machine helps one person in that time, it will have been worth it many times over.”
Glasgow Taxis driver Stephen Lalley, who suffered heart problems last year, now carries one of the defibrillators in his car.
Up to 1,000 minicab drivers blocked Blackfriars Road in protest to the announcement last month at congestion charges for minicabs, set to be introduced in April.
The protest from 10am-noon by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers branch (UPHD) saw cabs parked along the Cut, Union Street and Blackfriars Road. Protesters assembled outside TFL’s Palestra House office and marched up to Blackfriars Bridge.
The drivers vowed to repeat the protest every Monday over the policy introduced by the Mayor of London and TfL, which amounts to a “tax on the poor” and which they say will do little to reduce congestion.
Drivers chanted “Sadiq Khan shame on you”, “We want justice” and “Not the drivers, not the poor, tax the operators more”.
The charge could see drivers, already on poverty wages, have their take-home pay slashed by as much as 25 per cent, according to an analysis by the IWGB’s UPHD branch.
TfL’s own impact analysis showed a disproportionate impact on poor and BME workers with 71 per cent of TfL licensed minicab drivers hailing from designated deprived areas and 94 per cent identifying as BME. Black cabs drivers, which are 80 per cent white British, continue to be exempt from paying congestion charge.
The IWGB proposes an alternative policy that would effectively deal with the problem of congestion, including:
* A cap on the total number of minicab vehicle licenses.
* Instead of a congestion charge, place a licensing cost levy on private hire operators, based on the frequency of private hire vehicles from their fleet appearing in the congestion zone.
* To reduce the amount of time drivers spend on the road waiting for passengers (50 per cent of time drivers spend on the road is without a passenger) TfL should provide dedicated rest spaces for at least 4,000 minicabs to stop in London’s zones one and two.
The union says the Mayor of London should use his existing powers to enforce worker rights and that minimum wage enforcement would provide the necessary incentive for operators to reduce the number of cars on the road.
James Farrar, chair of the United Private Hire Drivers Union, said: “Today we can see the anger felt by drivers. Hundreds of us have come out on the streets today to call on Sadiq Khan to halt his plans to extend the congestion charge to minicab drivers. We are not going to stop until he listens to the exploited workers of this city – every Monday we will protest against TFL until they undo the damage they are planning to do. The ball is now in TfL’s court as we have raised our collective voices and stand united against this unjust and regressive tax on the poor.”
Caroline Russell, Green Party Assembly Member said at the protest: “I am one of three Assembly Members who supported the Mayor on congestion charging for PHV, so I’m an unexpected supporter, but I believe that these drivers and UPHD are right in calling for TfL to charge the operators who make all the profits and not the drivers who are working long hours on low pay to cover rent on their home, the loan on their car and keep food on the table.“
Abdura Razzak Hadi, Uber driver and chair of the London committee of the IWGB’s UPHD branch said: “Drivers like myself, already suffering from Uber’s poverty wages, are now being hit by this ill thought out congestion charge. Instead of targeting the pockets of multinational corporations, Sadiq Khan has chosen to introduce this tax on the poor., leaving us no option but to protest. Unless this charge is scrapped many of us don’t know how we will continue feeding our families and paying for a roof over our heads.”
The demonstration in central London has been called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain which claims the charge is a "tax on the poor" and will do little to reduce congestion in the capital.
The daily congestion charge of £11.50 will have to be paid by private hire drivers, such as those working for Uber, from April.
Unless this charge is scrapped many of us don't know how we will continue feeding our families and paying for a roof over our heads.
Bold action is required to tackle London's public health crisis. More than 9,000 deaths are linked to air quality every year. The private hire trade, along with all road users, have a central role in reducing the filthy fumes circulating in our city.
The changes to the congestion charge will contribute to fewer vehicles driving where pollution is most concentrated while ensuring the cleanest minicabs or those that are wheelchair accessible continue to enter the zone without paying a charge.
The changes to the congestion charge and the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April will significantly benefit the health of all Londoners, including drivers.