A MOTHER has spoken of her disgust after her Down’s syndrome son was allegedly referred to as a “Mongol” by a school transport escort.

Heather Carr questioned the training taxi drivers and escorts contracted by Durham County Council receive about disabilities, claiming few people would use such an offensive term in the 21st Century.

However, the authority said it has investigated the issues she raised and assured Miss Carr and other parents that all of its contractors’ staff are subject to enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and undergo training.

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Miss Carr has also criticised the turnover of taxi firms and drivers, which she says can unsettle youngsters, especially those with autism who can struggle when their routine is changed.

Miss Carr, 34, relies on the service to transport her five-year-old son, Blake Lee, from the family home in Sunnybrow, near Willington, to Evergreen Primary School in Bishop Auckland. This is because her partner works and she has baby twins to look after.

She learned of the upsetting comment from her neighbour, Liz Watson, whose eight-year-old son also uses the school transport service.

Ms Watson, who described the alleged incident to The Northern Echo, said the escort had been discussing how one of the children was always taking off his shoes, before identifying him as “the Mongol.”

“I asked if that meant, Blake, the little boy with Down’s syndrome, and they said yes,” said Ms Watson.

“I was tearing myself to bits all day about whether or not I should say anything to Heather but then I thought if it was my child I would want to know.”

Miss Carr said: “I’m disgusted that anyone could use the term in this day and age. People with such a lack of understanding should not be looking after children with special needs.”

After Miss Carr learned of the incident she no longer felt comfortable using the taxi firm but she said the council made it difficult for her to arrange an alternative.

It added to her growing frustration over attempts to have Blake picked up from a childminder's two days a week. “I’ve been looking at going back to university and returning to work following my maternity leave. To get them to change address for a pick up or drop off at a childminder is near impossible, making it very difficult for parents who want to work.”

Andy Leadbeater, the council’s integrated passenger transport manager, said: “While we appreciate that it is better for transport arrangements to remain the same, it is unavoidable that contracts will change from time to time. All of our contractors’ staff are subject to enhanced DBS checks and are required to undergo training which is organised by us to ensure that children get to and from school in a safe and comfortable way.”

He said arrangements were made on a case-by-case basis, adding: “We work closely with families to make sure they have the chance to meet their child’s driver and passenger assistant to aid any transition between contracts. Having investigated the issues raised by Blake’s family, we have now made appropriate changes to his transport arrangements.”