School transport contract terminated after safeguarding failings

A firm responsible for the transportation of children with special needs has had its contract with Birmingham City Council terminated after failing to provide evidence of the appropriate DBS checks for more than half of its employees.

A previous review of Birmingham's Home to School Transport service for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in 2020 had already found “systemic failings” in the service, which used a number of providers.

In this most recent case, one provider - North Birmingham Travel, underwent an audit due to a suspected breach of contract on the 11th August. Two compliance officers attended the site of the provider to undertake an on-site audit of all documentation relating to employee suitability for transport of vulnerable children. During this audit however, officers could only assure themselves of 51 out of 110 employee records – including 16 positive DBS disclosures of which officers could only assure themselves of 2.

The result of these findings caused enough concern to the council that the contract with North Birmingham Travel was terminated, resulting in a new tender being required – in addition to reputational damage caused by adverse media coverage of the incident.

This case further highlights both the importance of background checking and the potential damage that can be caused by not ensuring that such checks are completed and evidenced appropriately.

“We have been assured all of these routes will be reassigned, but we need to make sure the council is held to account on this. What we are hearing from families is trepidation, anxiety, and a profound sense of déjà vu. Our concern is that we were promised things would be different this year… but it is looking like things are on the same trajectory.”

Sabiha Aziz, chair of Birmingham Parent Carer forum

Adobestock 497715574

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