"Urgent action” ordered after fault found in Milton Keynes school taxi safety checks

A council has been ordered to take urgent action after a fault was found in the way it checks taxi drivers and assistants who transport vulnerable children to school.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:30 pm

The Local Government Ombudsman has told MK Council to audit the declarations of those who have not lived in the UK for at least 20 years or have spent long periods abroad.

Such individuals are not able to get DBS criminal record checks so the law says they must get a statutory declaration. It must be witnessed by a solicitor, magistrate, commissioner or notary.

The Local Government Ombudsman has told MK Council that: “Where it cannot determine that the witness meets the criteria, it should take urgent action to secure the correct statutory declaration for each badge holder.”

A school classroom

Fault emerged after a Milton Keynes dad complained that the council had changed his autistic son’s home-to-school arrangements in 2018 without consulting the family.

The boy has to travel around seven miles to and from a special school in the city. For three years he had travelled alone in a taxi after being unable to cope in shared transport.

But MK council changed the arrangement to put him in a taxi with other children. They said they had held meetings but the father claimed they had not taken place, and the council had been unable to prove it, the Ombudsman said.

It council had also failed to keep a record of a series of meetings, the LGO said in a ruling announced this week. The identity of the father, Mr X, and his son “Y” have not been revealed.

The autistic boy could not cope with being in a taxi with others, and had been injuring himself – including crying and banging his head, the Ombudsman heard.

“The council failed to carry out a satisfactory assessment of the possible impact on Y of any changes to his transport before it made the changes,” said the Ombudsman. The LGO also said the council had failed to give Mr X the chance to appeal.

Now , the council has also been ordered carry out a fresh assessment of Y’s needs and make payments to Mr X and his son.

The council has also been told to pay £475 to Y to recognise the impact on him of the change in transport between September 2018 and February 2019. They must also pay £250 to Mr X for his time and trouble pursuing the complaint and £67.50 per week from February 2019 to recognise the expense incurred in providing transport to school for Y.

“Payments will continue until there is agreement about future transport arrangements for Y or the appeal process has ended,” the Ombudsman added. Mr X will also receive £50 for every week from April 9, 2019 to “recognise the undue pressure caused by the council’s refusal to allow Y back on the school transport.”

The council was invited to comment further but no response was provided by 3pm on Friday (Jan 16).