School Transport Issues

Name Mark Davies and Gill Davies

Forum Member

Allerdale Carlisle Copeland Furness South Lakes Eden

 

Meeting Title: Meeting to discuss home to school transport issues
Meeting was held with: Caroline Watson (Commissioning Manager - Transport, Cumbria County Council), Mark Davies and Gill Davies (CPCF), Sarah Edgar, Vicky Rooney and Cath Hornsby (parents)
Meeting took place at: James Rennie School, Carlisle
Date of Meeting: 21st March 2018

Matters discussed in the meeting:

Individual difficulties that the parents had experienced were discussed, and wider issues relating to the manner in which procurement of transport is decided.

The individual difficulties mainly centred around two issues, being firstly lack of continuity of transport companies, drivers and escorts, and secondly where drivers and escorts are not suitable for their children; hence, their children are prevented by these reasons from fully benefitting from their education (see para 35 of the statutory guidance).

The outcome of the meeting and/or actions proposed:

Caroline Watson informed the meeting:

  1. the criteria upon which company is awarded which contract/routes is based upon the ability of the company to manage the contract (several contracts have failed in the past for various reasons where the company could not maintain the service), and provided the Council is satisfied as to this, the contracts/routes will be awarded to the lowest quote without any other consideration
  2. CW confirmed matters such as the concept of meeting needs or the principle of wellbeing is not taken into account (therefore the service is not person centred) when awarding contracts
  3. There has been no customer satisfaction survey conducted by CCC for several years, but parents were invited by CCC letter to a meeting in September 2017 to discuss procurement for April 2018 (worryingly, only one of the three parents were aware of receiving this letter), but CW stated CPCF were not invited to this meeting as it comprised of individual meetings, and hence "confidential".
  4. With the agreement of the parents present, CW will send CPCF copies of the September 2017 letters sent out
  5. Contracts are procured by CCC for 3 years length with an option of one further year, which is in accordance with EU regs - CW will send information as to this, presumably copies of council policies or protocols or government guidance
  6. All James Rennie transport contracts are procured at the same time, that is all start as of April 2018
  7. CW confirmed all transport contracts have now been entered into with contractors and are legally binding on the council and cannot be changed
  8. Transport contracts commence in April rather than September at the request of several parties including CPCF as it was considered this is more conducive to the wellbeing of the children
  9. CW will let CPCF know in respect of future procurements, if parents can pay the difference where a lower quote is obtained but parents wish to retain the present contract holders
  10. CW confirmed CCC will not offer existing contract holders to match lower quotes to retain contracts.

One of the parents stated in the meeting that the joint responsibilities set up for both health and local authority in regards to each child’s EHCP were not recognised in the statements made by CW during the meeting and that transport did not see themselves being part of this even though they are a local authority department. This is an important issue and must be addressed by the LA.

The parents were very assured in their comments to CW, where they objected to the Council's policy to award contracts purely on a lowest quote basis without taking into account their children's wellbeing.

The CPCF representatives made the point that whilst all parties appreciate the impact of budgetary restrictions and the importance of lowering costs, the efficient use of resources should not be confined to contract costs but should be wider, and other costs such as loss of wellbeing should be taken into account and a balance sought; and that the wellbeing principle is a cornerstone of statutory guidance under the Care Act 2014 and the Children and Families Act 2014, whereas we at CPCF are not aware of any statutory principle of "lowest costs no matter what is sacrificed".

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