Update: Barnet Council responds to Coach Escorts
In response to my email to the Chief Executive and the signed statement by the majority of the coach escorts I have had the following response which I want to share with you all.
“Briefing on the change of line-management of SEN Passenger Assistants
It has been agreed to transfer the line-management of SEN Passenger Assistants from Streetscene to the Transport Brokering Team in the BELS SEND and Inclusion service with effect from 1 January 2021. The transfer is intended to achieve service improvements while also delivering management efficiency savings over time.
The decision will lead to improvements in the service as a result of closer integration with other SEN teams and better communications which will be of benefit to pupils with special educational needs, their parents/carers, schools and the passenger assistants themselves. It will also enable BELS to deliver savings of £209,000 in 2021-22 rising to £229,000 in 22-23, as a result of management efficiencies.
In order to make the transfer as smooth as possible and to avoid any disruption or concerns about this leading to changes in terms and conditions for staff, it was decided that the staff should remain council employees and to commission BELS to provide line management for the service and to give them direct control of the staffing budget.
Staff will remain on LBB terms and conditions and there is no plan to change this. No redundancies are envisaged. It is not unusual to commission delivery partners to manage council staff. BELS already managed the headteacher of the Virtual School, who is employed by the council (a legal requirement) and she in turn manages the staff of the Virtual School who are employed by BELS. The Education Prevent Officer is employed by the council and managed by the BELS Safeguarding and Exclusions Manager. The head of the Transport Brokering Team in BELS reports directly to the Director, SEND and Inclusion, who is on a joint contract with the council and BELS (on account of some of the functions she exercises being non-contractable). BELS is a company wholly owned by the council.
Management of PAs by the SEN transport brokering team will provide a more streamlined conversation between the SEN teams, PAs, schools and parents about the needs of individual children and young people and how best to meet them and thus how to manage any safety and wellbeing issues. The transfer will mean greater consistency of approach/strategies used by all the adults who support children and young people with very complex needs, with PAs being part of the SEN team.
The transfer will enable closer working with schools and settings, so that information about individual children can be readily shared with PAs. This could include advice on behaviour management for individual children, as well as notifying the SEN Transport brokering team and the PAs of short or long-term changes in the child’s circumstances, including changes in health conditions.
The transfer will also lead to better planning and resilience for covering sickness and absence, which in turn will reduce the number of cancellations that have occurred during service delivery. It will mean a rapid response to passengers’ issues, as the Brokering team will now have direct contact with the PAs, without having to go through a middle tier of PTS management, which has sometimes resulted in delays in response times and complaints from frustrated parents.
PAs will be able to access direct support and advice from specialist staff in BELS concerning individual children. All the children and young people being transported and supported by PAs will be known to specialist Advisory Teachers and Educational Psychologists, who will be able to give advice on strategies to support the child. In effect, the Passenger Assistant will become a member of a ‘virtual team’ of adults working together to support the child, resulting in a holistic approach.
As the Brokering Team undertakes the risk assessment for SEN passengers, having the LBB PAs within their management control will lead to better understanding of requirements for PAs, ensuring the correct support and outcomes are achieved.
IH/HP 10.12.20. “
On 16 December I emailed BELS to ask for a copy of the plans in place to ensure that all staff have adequate PPE for all coach escorts when schools reopen in January 2020.
I want to send my best wishes to all of our members working for Passenger Transport and can assure you all that next year Barnet UNISON will be looking out for our members.