A recent prosecution for fraud in Birmingham has revealed the potential for fraud in the DBS sector. A recruitment officer for a transport company contracted to provide school transport services was found guilty after lying to Council officials about the criminal records checks of drivers.
School Transport and DBS Checks
Thousands of children across the UK rely on bus or taxi transport to get to school. Many of the children who were caught up in the scandal in Birmingham were children with additional needs, who required taxi transport to take them to special schools some considerable distances from their home addresses.
The law around police record checking for drivers on school transport is clear. This sort of close contact with children is defined as “regulated activity” and that means that any driver needs an enhanced DBS check. What should happen is that drivers are directed to a website where they can quickly and easily apply for their checks online. An enhanced DBS check involves looking at the applicant’s current criminal record, as well as any older convictions and cautions which might call their character into question. This is a very important part of making sure that children are as safe as they can be on their way to school, and doing the checks is a key way of making sure that criminals cannot get these sorts of positions.
Fraud and Penalties
Part of the reason why companies may be tempted to skip the DBS checks is due to the costs involved. Fees apply for all disclosure checks on workers, with only volunteers being exempt. Doing DBS checks is not an optional part of the recruitment process, and companies which falsify test certificates or employ people with no police checking at all risk prosecution. In the case which recently came to light in Birmingham, as soon as the fraud came to light the transport company lost their contract to provide taxis, which was estimated at being worth around £2m annually. Prison sentences for people who are found to be deliberately forging DBS checks or lying about how they are screening their staff members can be as high as seven years in prison.
Advice for Parents
Firstly, it is important to stress that the very fact that the Birmingham case made the headlines is an indication that this is not an everyday event. Thousands of children use Council transport to get to school every day, safely and with properly checked drivers. Councils are very aware that they should be checking out their own drivers, and drivers from companies which are used as subcontractors. All Councils should have safeguarding policies and procedures which parents can read to find out exactly which checks are done, and what the process is for checking out the people who will be driving their children to school. There should also be a point of contact for raising concerns about any driver to the safeguarding team at the Council should a child report anything they are uncomfortable with.