An East Staffordshire mum has started a petition calling for trained carers to be placed on school transport for special educational needs students. Roxy Long, who lives in Uttoxeter with her seven-year-old son Freddie, has started the petition, set to be submitted to Staffordshire County Council, following concerns over treatment of her son while he was in a taxi being transported to Fountains School in Burton-upon-Trent.
An East Staffordshire mum has started a petition calling for trained carers to be placed on school transport for special educational needs students.
Roxy Long, who lives in Uttoxeter with her seven-year-old son Freddie, has started the petition, set to be submitted to Staffordshire County Council, following concerns over treatment of her son while he was in a taxi being transported to Fountains School in Burton-upon-Trent.
Roxy told the Uttoxeter Echo: “Freddie is non verbal, Autistic with complex learning difficulties.
“He was recently the victim of abuse by his escort on home to school transport to Fountains School.
“Since then, I have been contacted by some very concerned parents. Stories of disabled children tied up on transport to serious allegations of sexual abuse.
“We read about these things in magazines and we see them on television but this is happening right here and now for children in Uttoxeter and Burton and I want to appeal for change.
“I have started a petition for safer travelling conditions for SEN children.”
Roxy continued: “Local authorities pick up hundreds of children each year. Although all escorts are DBS checked, many have no experience in care or the knowledge and understanding of how to meet the needs of extremely vulnerable children.
“Parents have spoken of lack of training, concerns over safety, criminal record checks and strangers turning up to take their children to school putting them at risk.
“Our councils give out these contracts to the cheapest taxi firms with no regards to the children’s needs and disabilities.
“We are sending our children as young as three in cars with adults that often speak limited English paired with non verbal children resulting in communication difficulties to travel miles to their nearest special schools to access all of the care and support they need.
“These children need an extra level of care that a basic escort can not provide. Local parents would like trained carers or support workers on home to school transport to Fountains School making travelling conditions safer for the areas most vulnerable disabled children.”
Roxy further explained about the incident involving her son: “The incident regarding my son was reported at the end of May when a social worker contacted me to inform me that a witness in my son’s vehicle had seen my son being repeatedly slapped in the face by his escort.
“We have no idea if this was an isolated incident or if this has been going on for a while.
“The incident was reported to staff at the school who then informed the LADO (local authority designated officer).
“The escort was immediately suspended pending further investigation. Unfortunately after a multi agency safeguarding meeting it was decided that this would not be investigated further by the police due to not enough evidence and instead social services would hold their own internal investigation.
“This comes at the end of six months of safeguarding concerns where several children in the area were removed from the bus of a trusted local company and placed into the care of small taxi companies that could not meet their needs or accommodate the specialist equipment needed to keep them safe.
“Councils put out these contracts to the cheapest firms who often employ friends and family as escorts. Although the escorts are DBS checked they often do not have the care experience that is essential when caring for disabled children. Their response is that many drivers are leaving the industry to go elsewhere and councils are struggling to replace them which is leaving vulnerable children at risk.”
“Unfortunately despite my best efforts to work with Staffordshire County Council to safeguard these children over the last few months all communication has failed.
“My level one and two complaints were never followed up with a written response and I am now waiting to hear whether the social care ombudsman will investigate further.
“In the meantime my son has missed eight weeks of education this year due to transport issues and missed out on all of the care support and therapies he needs to function.
“By law our children are entitled to transport that meets their needs to attend the schools named by councils on their EHCPs.”
The Uttoxeter Echo contacted Staffordshire County Council with regards to Roxy’s petition and all of her concerns as set out above.
In response, councillor Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Education and SEND, said: “This authority spends around £19 million a year commissioning daily transport for around 2,200 children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
“All 2,500 drivers, staff and passenger assistants are DBS checked and we provide support and training for those carrying pupils with complex needs.”
He added: “This service, including the passenger assistance, is operated by an external provider.
“An investigation is underway and the assistant has been suspended as a matter of routine as a neutral act without any presumption of the outcome. The family is being kept informed.”
A council spokesman also stated that: “The decision to change provider was forced upon the council when the previous contractor decided it was no longer able to fulfil the contract and gave notice to withdraw.”
As of yesterday (Tuesday, June 28), Roxy’s petition ‘Trained carers/keyworkers on SEN school transport’ had gained a total of 381 signatures. The petition can be located online at: www.change.org/p/trained-carers-keyworkers-on-sen-school-transport.
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