Fears for children over bus loopholes
LOOPHOLES and oversights in the criminal records checks system for school bus drivers could be putting youngsters at risk, it has been claimed. Essex County Council contracts bus companies to transport thousands of pupils and only uses organizations which have had all their employees checked by the Criminal Records Bureau.
LOOPHOLES and oversights in the criminal records checks system for school bus drivers could be putting youngsters at risk, it has been claimed.
Essex County Council contracts bus companies to transport thousands of pupils and only uses organizations which have had all their employees checked by the Criminal Records Bureau.
But Colchester Rape Crisis Line has revealed it has been counseling a number of youngsters who they believe have been attacked by their bus drivers.
And yesterday the support organization said it feared there could be more attacks especially because the rural nature of the some parts of the county increased the time drivers spend alone with children.
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EADT investigations have discovered Essex County Council relies on bus companies doing the CRB checks on any new workers.
And because the council does not carry out any random checks of its own to ensure drivers have passed a CRB test, there is a possibility some companies may take on drivers who pose a risk to youngsters.
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The council admitted yesterday it was “faces difficulties” with security when handling public transport matters because it is not a licensing authority meaning it does not run the CRB checks itself.
Andrea Williams, of Colchester Rape Crisis Line, said: “It may be drivers are checked by companies, but the message from the council here is that it is down to the individual private companies which is an oversight at the very least.
“We have had phone calls from youngsters who say they have been sexually assaulted by drivers and that is what alerted us to the issue.
“There was a lot of talk teenage girls swapping phone numbers with bus drivers which is an inappropriate atmosphere at the least, but we believe there have been sexual assaults.
A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said: “We check drivers regularly for correct licensing and insurances but we have to trust the fact that right precautions are taken before licences are awarded by the licensing authority.
“Essex County Council does its best to ensure that the interests and safety of its clients are protected as certainly as possible at all times.
“We are faced with some difficulties in achieving consistency of such security when handling public transport matters because we are not a licensing authority and have to trust many other professional agencies that we work alongside on such matters.
“Essex is a very large authority and whilst we do everything in our power to ensure that our drivers are checked regularly for correct licensing and insurances, this is an issue that would benefit from a discussion a national level.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We would encourage anyone who has been the victims of such crime to make contact with us so that it can be investigated thoroughly.”