LAST week I met a resident from my ward at their child’s school as they were facing continued disruption with home to school transport.

This is in connection with the introduction of a new contract that allows multiple providers to provide one service. I was shocked by what I saw.

Despite assurances to the contrary, I witnessed our most vulnerable children having their journeys badly disrupted and heard from parents themselves that they feel “left in the dark”.

Parents were told the new contract arrangements would generate improvements. Parents were assured that, given that there would be more operators, there would be more capacity.

However, the reality on the ground is that home to school transport under these new arrangements has worsened, not improved. More operators appears to have meant less joined-up thinking.

Where drop offs were once coordinated, multiple drivers now wait at the school gates, creating long queues that in many cases leave students sitting in vehicles for too long.

A focus on “unifying routes”... basically creating the most logical route for the driver... is not necessarily what is best for the child.

While bigger vehicles are available, they are now transporting more children; some of whom have conditions that may not necessarily be compatible with those of others in the same vehicle.

On top of this, parents have raised issues with how the vehicles are equipped. Vehicles coming into Brighton from surrounding areas are not required to uphold the “Blue Book” vehicle safety standards.

Nor are drivers/passenger assistants necessarily offered formalised training, meaning that, in some cases, there is virtually no interaction between them and the children in their care.

What we know is that this means additional stress for the children on the way to school... in some cases, parents have told me this is exacerbated by the use of restrictive harnesses.

It’s clear that the additional stress has resulted in safeguarding issues for all concerned, including drivers and passenger assistants.

Parents and carers of children with additional needs deserve a service that works. Issues with the delivery of the new contract suggests that new transport providers were not properly briefed on the requirements ahead of the tender process and are now struggling to meet them.

Assurances given to parents at the outset of the tender process appear to have been ignored. While parents have been offered reassurance, the Labour Council needs to guarantee something will change, not least to ensure the proper safeguarding of some of our most vulnerable children.

It is clear that swift and decisive action is needed to resolve these issues.

On top of accepting the mistakes that have been made, the Labour Council must also work with parents and operators to put things right. If that means reverting to the previous system, then so be it.

The new contract, the “Dynamic Purchasing System”, may work for some services but I question whether it is necessarily appropriate for transporting SEND children with complex needs.

Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, Green Party Councillor for Preston Park