The controversy over DBS checks for Birmingham drivers does not seem to be coming to an end any time soon. The problem first arose in September 2020 when the council switched providers for their school transport service, which provides taxis to take children with special educational needs to schools across the West Midlands.
Recent revelations from Birmingham City Council found that out of 110 employees at a transport company under contract to provide school transportation, 59 did not have evidence of having had a DBS check in the past. Furthermore, when finally checked, 16 out of the 59 people were found to have “positive disclosures”, meaning some level of criminality was revealed on their DBS certificate. If the system operates properly, employers carry out further checks to assure themselves that employees pose no risk to children in their care, but this had clearly not been done.
A Wider Issue with DBS Checks?
Although the company which was not conducting DBS checks was under contract to Birmingham City Council, other local authorities were using their services too. The same person who was in charge of the Birmingham transport company also worked with neighbouring Sandwell council to provide transport services. Unsurprisingly, local Sandwell councillors are starting to ask questions about what is going on in their own area, given that the owners of the transport company have already demonstrated they are unable to stick to identical rules and guidelines in the Birmingham City area. One particularly vocal councillor said that the Council’s statement that the Sandwell DBS process was robust was a “joke”.
What Should Be Happening?
It is unclear exactly what went on at the travel company concerned. At best, there was a lack of record-keeping in terms of what staff had been DBS checked, and what may or may not have been revealed on their certificates. At worst, there were allegations of tampering with certificates and disregarding serious criminal records which should have ruled drivers out from working with very vulnerable children.
Taxi drivers of all types require an enhanced DBS check. This is because the nature of their job requires that they spend time in close proximity to customers, who may be vulnerable. This is especially the case with school transport drivers. The guidelines set out by Birmingham City Council state that drivers should be DBS checked annually. The enhanced process will reveal not only current and unspent convictions, but also other convictions which may throw doubt on their suitability for the role.
When the employees receive their certificates, they should be showing them to their employers. At that stage the employer’s own safeguarding policies kick in. If the certificate is clear, then the employer should take a note of that on the employee’s file. If not, then it’s a case of going through the risk-assessment policy to work out whether the employee is suitable or not. Everything should be documented and recorded, so that if the Council does ask about DBS checks at a later date, the paperwork is immediately to hand.