'Very distressing' Southend parents call for SEND transport provider to be scrapped

Parents are calling for a new school transport service for children with Special Educational Needs in Southend to be scrapped.

Families of children using the service say their safety is being put at risk on the school run.

The calls come after five serious safeguarding issues were raised in the first two weeks of term. 

Allegations include a lack of drivers, unaccompanied four year olds in taxis and children running into roads as they're not properly supervised.

Over 1,000 people have signed a petition asking for the council to stop using Vecteo, which is partly run by Southend Borough Council, for transport.

Megan and her son. Credit: ITV Anglia

Megan's son Josh has autism, and says having a set routine is vital to him. But when the Vecteo bus service started, his family did not even know if transport would turn up.

The man behind the petition, Colin Nickless, has previously fought Southend Borough Council to get support for his autistic daughter.

He says parents have come to him with a whole range of concerns about the transport service.

The council apologised and says improvements have been made.

  • Read the full statement from Southend Borough Council:

Cllr Laurie Burton, cabinet member for education and children’s services, said: “We deeply regret the quality of service some children using home to school transport received at the beginning of the new school year. It is simply not acceptable, and I am sorry for any distress and upset it caused.

 “The Council takes its statutory duties for providing the home to school transport service incredibly seriously, including the regular undertaking of eligibility and risk assessments to make sure the child is getting a service best suited to their needs. The safety of our children is our primary concern and whilst we cannot comment on specific matters, all safeguarding concerns reported have, are and will be investigated and have followed appropriate guidance and proper processes according to Vecteo and the Council’s policies.

 “Dissolving the joint venture partnership as requested by the petition, would leave the Council with no contract, no provider and a lengthy procurement process to find another provider. This would cause far more disruption over a longer period to school transport of students with SEND, than continuing with the joint venture partnership and making sure issues are resolved promptly and improvements made quickly. Vecteo is focusing on improvements to get the current service up to the best possible standard.

 “We understand the frustrations and anger of some parents and while there were problems, we have seen improvements to the service throughout September. There is still more to be done, so we are working hard with Vecteo to make sure this happens. I want to reassure these parents we are doing all we can to make sure a safe and efficient service is in place going forward.”