Express & Star

59 drivers had not passed DBS checks at school transport provider

A transport company which was set to be handed a contract in Sandwell had more than 50 drivers taking vulnerable children to school who had not passed DBS checks, it has emerged.

Last updated
Sandwell Council House, Oldbury

Birmingham City Council said it had terminated its contract with North Birmingham Travel because of "suspected misrepresentation in relation to DBS checks".

Only 51 of 110 DBS checks were compliant, with 16 flagging up previous convictions but the contract has only now been terminated. The city council said the others were "unacceptable for technical reasons", such as being issued by a previous employer.

The company has provided school transport for hundreds of children with special educational needs (SEND) across the city.

It was set to be handed a four-year contract worth more than £20 million to do the same in Sandwell before serious questions were raised about how the firm was chosen by council officials, and the decision put off amid building pressure.

North Birmingham Travel is run by former Sandwell Council employee Azeem Hafeez. He is also the son of former deputy leader Mahboob Hussain, and both were named in the explosive 2016 Wragge Report on council land deals. He denied any wrongdoing.

The latest developments in Birmingham will only put more pressure on Sandwell bosses to explain their decision-making processes.

Opposition Conservative councillors have written to Sandwell Council bosses outlining their concerns and seeking clarification on the transport contracts. The authority has been forced to extend its contract with its existing provider as the investigation continues.

The DBS failures were revealed following a city council investigation prompted by complaints.

Tory councillors in Birmingham have also demanded answers over the scandal. The city council said it took "swift action" once the DBS failings became clear.

DBS checks, short for Disclosure and Barring Service, delve into a prospective employee's background to ensure it is appropriate for them to work with children.

Councillor Alex Yip, shadow cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, added: “This further safeguarding failure for children with sometimes significant disabilities is appalling on several fronts.

"We were told the DBS checking and monitoring process has been vastly improved. We were promised that in September children will have a safe and efficient service to and from their schools.

"The reformed DBS checking service has allowed drivers with concerning DBS checks to be left alone with potentially uncommunicative children with learning disabilities on their way home once again.

"Parents must be able to trust that council are keeping their children safe, but time and time again the promises from the leader of the council are proven false and his apologies hollow.

“Residents must be told how many months these drivers have been transporting children, how they were allowed to start driving before checks were approved, and where the changes made have again failed parents in the city.”

Sandwell Council has said an early review of the process had found “no initial evidence of financial wrongdoing, impropriety or non-compliance with the procurement and contract procedure rules”. The matter will also be looked at by scrutiny bosses.

North Birmingham Travel has been contacted for comment.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.