'Life-changing' travel training puts Rhys on the road to independence

Rhys Thomas receives an award for being the first person in Rotherham to complete the Independent Travel Training scheme

The parents of a young adult with additional needs from Kimberworth, Rotherham have spoken about the “life-changing” impact an independent travel training course has had on their son.

And thanks to his success, scores more people from Rotherham are set to benefit as the Council rolls out the scheme to young people and adults across the borough.

Before carrying out the training, Rhys Thomas was unable to use public transport safely by himself, meaning that he needed to be accompanied on all journeys or rely on his parents for lifts.

Rhys and his family volunteered to take part in a new Rotherham Council Independent Training pilot scheme, which provides intensive support to individuals wishing to receive training and travel independently. 

Since completing the course, the progress Rhys has made has been extraordinary and he now uses public transport on a daily basis for college and for getting out and about at weekends across South Yorkshire. He also now volunteers at the South Yorkshire Transport Museum, helping others to use buses safely.

Rhys’s parents have spoken of their pride that Rhys has become the first person in Rotherham to complete the training and how they hope he can inspire others to do the same.

Rhys’s mum, Nicola Parkinson said: “Since he has done the training, Rhys’s confidence has come on in leaps and bounds – we’re very proud of what he has achieved and how the training has helped him to flourish. It’s also given us the reassurance that he can be independent and travel safely by himself with the right training and support.

“Doing the training has been the best decision we’ve ever made. It’s been life-changing. We encourage other parents of young adults to try it too if it’s right for them. It’s made such a big difference for Rhys.”

Rhys added: “I found it a bit scary when I first started it but then a few months later I managed to cope with it very well. I feel absolutely proud of myself and I hope everyone, like my friends at college are going to take part too – and I’ll be proud of those guys as well.”

Rhys was presented with a special award last month for being the first person in Rotherham to complete the training by the former Mayor of Rotherham, Councillor Tajamal Khan.

Following the success of the pilot scheme, Rotherham Council will offer Independent Travel Training to more young people.

Councillor Dominic Beck, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Rotherham Council said: “Rhys is a great ambassador for independent travel training and a great example about how it can provide the confidence and life-long skills many people need to be more independent.

“Following the success of the pilot scheme, the Council took the decision to commit more funding in Independent Travel Training as part of our budget proposals for this year, so that more young people and adults from across the Borough can benefit in exactly the same way that Rhys has. Rhys should feel extremely proud that he has led the way and I hope his story will inspire others to follow in his footsteps.”

When a child receives supported transport provision, it is often the case that continued support into adulthood will be required and this translates a dependency on private hire services. By providing independent travel training, the Council is offering a life skill to be able to access public transport safely, confidently, and whenever a person wishes to travel, and therefore enjoy the freedom that comes with it.

Further information about home to school transport and independent travel training is available from the Council’s website.

VIDEO: Watch Rhys Thomas and his parents reflect on how the training has improved his confidence and independence.

Published: 5th June 2023