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Bus Driver Safety "Loophole"

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:05am 11th September 2014.

Has your child's bus driver been background checked?

There are claims there is a potential loophole in how Cornwall's children are kept safe on the way to and from school.

Pirate FM has learnt contracted services need to run background checks, but normal public service routes do not.

Many pupils use them on free bus passes.

Garry Williams is operations manager at a Cornish coach company. He has big concerns: "A lot of operators do do it, but there is a risk. All I want is for those, the kids and vulnerable people on vehicles to be safe. And if taxi drivers have to have it I can't see why bus drivers don't.

"The safety net needs to be tightened up. Any person who travels on a public service vehicle whether it be private hire, coach or bus, whatever it is, they need to know that that driver has been checked."

Pirate FM asked officials at County Hall about the checks, which used to be known as CRB checks but is now run by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

We were told: "There are over 280 closed door school bus routes and all drivers/staff engaged on these services must have DBS clearance. So, in total there is over 350 staff cleared to work on closed bus services for Cornwall Council. 

"'Service routes' indicates registered local bus services (i.e. public service buses) - there is no legal requirement for drivers of public service vehicles to have DBS clearance as the work is deemed not to be a regulated activity.

"However, every company engaged in providing public bus services, will have their own recruitment policy and place great emphasis upon selecting the right calibre of person to work on these services. Any concerns over staff seeking employment are shared with the Council."

We asked if there had been any safeguarding investigations involving bus drivers in the Duchy over the last five years and were told: "There have been less than 10 investigations and none have related to incidents whilst carrying out Cornwall Council contracts."

The council says it carries out regular spot checks.

First supplies some of the service routes in Cornwall that children would use. A spokesperson said: "We comply with the current legislation surrounding the recruitment of bus drivers. 

"In addition, new drivers must go through our rigorous interview process, while we also make a point of checking all our applicant's references. 

"This helps ensure we are employing the right people with the right skills."

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