School bus drivers suspended

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Ten people who drive youngsters to school in the borough have been suspended as they have not undergone the full checks to ensure they are safe to work among children.

The drivers, who work for contractors on Wigan Council’s school transport service, have all had enhanced DBS checks. But they have not had children’s workforce checks as part of the screening process for their jobs and have been taken off the service until they have had and passed these checks.

Mark Tilley, assistant director for infrastructure at the council, said: “As a consequence of becoming aware of this we are writing to all contractors to remind them of their responsibilities for ensuring they follow all the council’s safeguarding procedures. I must make clear there is no suggestion these drivers were a risk to children.

“Indeed they have the enhanced DBS checks. But as a council we must make sure all drivers working for our school transport service also have the children’s workforce check.”

The council says school transport contractors are responsible for ensuring they are fully aware of its safeguarding protocols.

It added that drivers not having a children’s workforce check represents a failure to comply with the conditions of the council’s contract.

Wigan Council says safeguarding children and preventing child sexual exploitation is one of its top priorities and it has improved its internal procedures to make sure all enhanced DBS checks for drivers operating on school transport in the borough are processed by the council and not by another authority.

Mr Tilley added: “Safeguarding children is everybody’s responsibility and the council, its contractors and members of the public must all work together and remain vigilant to protect children from harm.

“We are redoubling our efforts so that all drivers have the correct full checks in place and we need our private sector partners to support us with this very important issue.”

The council says the suspended drivers were accompanied by a council passenger assistant with an appropriate enhanced DBS when taking youngsters to school.

Mr Tilley said: “We recognise that private contractors have an important role to play in delivering our school transport service and we thank them for working with us in addressing this important issue. It is important to note that the vast majority of drivers have a passenger assistant with them at all times who are fully DBS checked to ensure the children’s welfare is looked after and maintained.”

Anyone with concerns about a safeguarding issue should contact GMP on 999 in an emergency or 101 or the council’s social care duty team on 01942 828300.