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Young people with special education needs and disabilities are celebrating their independence thanks to a new council scheme.

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Havering Council and the Disability Association of Barking and Dagenham (DABD) offered 12-week courses to give the teenagers the confidence to use public transport on their own.

Daniel Pollock, of Collier Row, was among a group of 14 who received awards from the Mayor of Havering earlier this month for their hard work.

The 17-year-old Havering Sixth Form College student, who began training in September, said: “It was hard, and sometimes I went wrong, but now I can go into town to meet my friends and I don’t have to get a lift anywhere.”

Daniel’s mum Dawn, of Collier Row, said she was “really proud” of her son.

“I was very apprehensive at first because he’d never been anywhere on his own,” she said.

“But now Daniel has so much more confidence than before. It hasn’t just helped him with getting to and from places – it’s also helped him to talk to other people. He wouldn’t normally do that.

“He’s really confident now and he even refuses when I ask if he wants a lift because he prefers to use public transport.”

Eighteen-year-old Josie Foreland learnt two different pedestrian-friendly routes to Barking College from her Hornchurch home with zebra crossings – so now she can choose which way she wants to go.

Josie’s mum Lynn said: “I’m really glad she did it – Josie has so much more freedom than she did before.

“She goes out on her own and sends me a text to let me know she’s got where she wants to go.”

Havering’s education boss Cllr Paul Rochford said: “Independence is something most of us take for granted and many of these people have had to rely on others to do everyday things like going into town or going to college, which can be very limiting.

“This is a huge achievement for them and they should all be proud of themselves.”

Anyone interested in the travel training scheme can find out more at www.havering.gov.uk.

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