Chris Coles, Operations Director of school transport specialist Kura, examines how operators can fully utilise the DBS procedure to place themselves in position to take advantage of short-notice needs for additional home-to-school capacity
Now that we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with staff returning from furlough, home-to-school (H2S) operators should place themselves in a competitive position by ensuring that their drivers can start driving on school contracts as quickly as possible. While many H2S operators remain in a fragile economic position, not being able to meet short notice demand due to a lack of approved drivers could be damaging to their recovery.
All H2S operators will be aware of how crucial it is to have the correct safeguarding requirements for unaccompanied drivers transporting children. However, when multiple schools are contracted with different requirements, it can complicate and elongate the process.
DBS check part of safeguarding procedure
The transportation of children is regulated by law, and it requires certain safeguarding checks to be carried out. Those include regular employment checks, such as of the right to work in the UK and two written references from previous employers as well as an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (eDBS) check.
It is this last element that causes confusion for operators, with comments such as “they have a DBS” being used as justification that a driver is able to operate an unsupervised H2S route. In fact, it is what is on the DBS certificate that is important, as well as the date of the certificate. Even the worst criminal in the country can obtain a DBS certificate. But it will contain all the details of their criminal past, which, when reviewed, will mark their unsuitability to work with children.
The presence of a conviction on a DBS does not automatically exclude a driver from working these routes. Instead, the timing and severity of the conviction will be taken into account. It will then be at the discretion of the school to decide who should be marked as suitable to drive their H2S services.
Additionally, those that are deemed suitable must have a certificate that is dated within three months – although many schools do not enforce this. There is an exemption if drivers have been working on school routes within the previous three months and checks have already been completed for that work, but that timeline, or another arbitrarily imposed by the school, could cause significant problems.
DBS Update service is a timesaver
However, there is a simple solution. When a driver obtains a new eDBS certificate, they can apply within 28 days to join the DBS Update service for £13 per year. The certificate can then be presented to a school to run a quick online check, which will show if there have been any entries since the certificate was printed.
Once enrolled, operators would never have to pay for another DBS check for that driver. There is the added benefit that the driver would not have to undergo additional checks should they wish to work with children in other capacities.
It is a simple and cost-effective solution, which could make the difference in being able to take on a much-needed contract or missing out to a competitor.