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1.2.1 Transporting Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter sets out the borough’s requirements in terms of procedures to be followed in complying with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, when staff take children and families on journeys. It contains a number of requirements regarding supervision/consent/insurance etc. It does not, in general, apply to normal, routine social work activities. Advice on this matter may be sought from the Contracts Officer – Premises (Social Services) at the Civic Centre.

See also SEN Transport Policy.

SMOKING IN VEHICLES

Please note that as 1 October 2015 it has been illegal to smoke in private vehicles carrying someone under 18. As set out in Rules about tobacco, e-cigarettes and smoking: 1 October 2015.

AMENDMENT

In October 2017 Section 3, Seat Belts and Restraints, was revised to link with the national guidance “Child car Seats: the law".


Contents

  1. Legislation
  2. General Arrangements
  3. Seat Belts and Restraints
  4. Other Safety Considerations when Transporting Children
  5. Education
  6. Taxis
  7. Community Transport
  8. Foster Placements
  9. Social Workers’ Own Transport and/or the use of Hired Vehicles
  10. Children with Disabilities


1. Legislation

Two pieces of legislation concern us in the matter of the transport of children. The first is the Children Act; specifically Schedule 2 Sections 8, 16 and 17. The second is the Highway Code, Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 38 – see Section 3, Seat Belts and Restraints.

Schedule 2, Section 8 – Children in Need Living with their Families

This section requires the local authority to provide “facilities for, or assistance with, travelling to and from home for the purpose of taking advantage of any other service provided under this Act or any similar service”.

Clearly this is an elastically defined provision, which is very much open to interpretation. Where deemed possible or appropriate, cases should be discussed with the team manager and/or assessed jointly with others; for example the Education Department, health workers etc.

Schedule 2, Section 16 – Visits to or by Other Children; Expenses

This section applies to children who are being Looked After. The authority may make payments to a parent of the child; any person who is not a parent but has Parental Responsibility for him/her; or any relative, friend or other person connected with him in respect of travelling, subsistence or other expenses incurred by that person in visiting the child.

The conditions are that it appears to the authority that the visit in question could not otherwise be made without undue financial hardship and that the circumstances warrant the making of the payments.

The use of the word “may” means that payment is not mandatory. The possibility of using this provision is what seems to be appropriate circumstances, should be discussed with the team manager.

Schedule 2, Section 17 – Independent Visitors

Where an Independent Visitor has been appointed for a child, such a person is entitled to recover from the appointing authority any reasonable expenses incurred in carrying out his functions. Clearly transport costs could come within this provision.


2. General Arrangements

Staff and carers transporting children on behalf of the local authority must be aware that the behaviour of children regardless of age can be unpredictable, and transport of children needs to be carefully planned and risk assessed before it occurs.

Consideration must be given to the likelihood of predictable problems during any journey and the following must be taken into account:

  1. Passenger safety;
  2. Competence of the driver;
  3. Awareness of driver’s hours;
  4. Traffic conditions;
  5. Contingency funds and arrangements in case of breakdown/emergency;
  6. Weather;
  7. Journey time and distance;
  8. Stopping off points for long journeys and toilet breaks - 15 minutes every 2 hours;
  9. Appropriate car seats, seat belts or restraints must be used and fastened (see Section 3, Seat Belts and Restraints for requirements);
  10. A working mobile telephone should be taken and carried by the person in charge and each member of staff likely to be on their own with the child;
  11. Before starting any journey, the owner of any vehicle must undertake sufficient checks to ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy.


3. Seat Belts and Restraints

The following applies unless the person has a valid medical exemption, from a medical practitioner.

Front Seat Rear Seat Whose Responsibility
Driver Adult seat belt must be worn if fitted   Driver
Child See the national guidance See the national guidance Driver
Adult passengers Adult seat belt must be worn if available Adult seat belt must be worn if available Passenger

Children cannot travel in contracted taxis without restraints. 

Employees must only use seats that have been purchased specifically by the Education and Children’s Services Department for the transportation of children. 

The driver is responsible in law for making sure that children under 14 years use seat belts or child seat/boosters as required.

For children over 14 years it is the responsibility of the driver to make the child aware of the needs to wear a seat belt/ Restraint. 

Where a child refuses to wear a seat belt, then under no circumstance must that child be transported.


4. Other Safety Considerations when Transporting Children

Staff will be involved in the transportation of children from and to various settings e.g. school, home visits, activities, court etc.

It is the responsibility of all managers to ensure that staff update changes to their insurance and driving licence and provide copies of the documents.

Additional points should also be noted:

  1. Where a Risk Assessment states that two staff should accompany a child, the child should never be left alone whilst on the activity. In this case both staff should sit with the child in the rear of the vehicle during the journey;
  2. Under no circumstances must a child be allowed to gain access to vehicle keys. When not in use, vehicle keys must be kept in a safe place. Children may not use the main controls of vehicles, steer cars or use petrol pumps;
  3. All vehicle occupants must wear suitable seat belts or restraints at all times when in vehicles (See Section 3, Seat Belts);
  4. Children, staff/carers and other passengers may not smoke in vehicles;
  5. If there is any likely or known risk to the child or others, e.g., a child’s history of violence, the likelihood that the child may abscond or refuse to go, the member of staff should consult his or her team manager for advice on how to proceed but, as a minimum, should ensure the following:
    1. The child must sit in the rear of the vehicle, and each child must be supervised by a minimum of one member of staff;
    2. Staff must be clear when it may be appropriate to use Physical Intervention and what techniques may be appropriate;
    3. Children must not sit behind the driver or be able to distract the driver;
    4. The member of staff must be satisfied that no items which could be used as weapons are available to the child. These could include tools, aerosols, pens etc;
    5. If it is suspected that the child may have some weapon concealed on their person, this must be discussed with the team manager immediately and before the journey commences;
    6. A plan should be in place for arrival at the destination:
      • Will more staff be needed?
      • Is a room available?
      • Is it easy to get the car close to the destination; and
      • Is it possible to avoid other children becoming involved?
    7. If the potential risks cannot be managed safely, the journey must not go ahead or continue. If necessary, the Police must be called to assist.
  6. If a child becomes distressed to the extent that the safety of the vehicle or occupants may be compromised, the vehicle must be stopped in a safe and legal manner. The appropriate emergency support service should be summoned if required;
  7. If the safety of the occupants is compromised, with the risk of injury or damage to property, Physical Intervention may be used. If the situation cannot be managed the Police should be called to assist.


5. Education

Children who have been ‘statemented’ or recommended for an assessment for statementing, may well need special transport to and from school. This provision is normally automatic. Nevertheless, if it is thought that if a child has unmet transport needs arising from a disability, the case should be discussed with the Education Special Services Department.


6. Taxis

Harlington Road Depot can provide lists of approved taxi firms. Approval in this context does not, generally, include Police checks, but rather affirms that the vehicles used carry appropriate insurance and meet road user requirements.

Because of the lack of Police checks the vulnerability, or otherwise of the child should be a prime consideration when taxis are used.

Where the child, by virtue of his or her age, level of intelligence and/or understanding; behavioural problems; likelihood of absconding etc. is deemed vulnerable the use of an escort should be discussed with the team manager.

The possible use of taxis should be discussed with, and approved by, the team manager.


7. Community Transport

Minibuses can be hired, with the team manager’s approval, from Community Transport – Uxbridge 232188.


8. Foster Placements

The cost of normal travel is included in the Foster Carer Allowance. The possibility of meeting extraordinary transport costs will, however, be considered by the Family Placement Team. Such costs could arise, for example, from the continued use of a non local school, or essential journeys going more than 10 miles beyond the Borough boundary.


9. Social Workers’ Own Transport and/or the use of Hired Vehicles

Ideally and especially where lengthy and out or borough journeys are involved, the use of public transport is to be recommended. Where such lengthy journeys are mooted the team manager should be consulted if the use of public transport offers operating difficulties – for example inadequate train or coach services etc.

When the use of private transport is considered desirable or essential, it is a requirement of Hillingdon that, in the event that those out of borough journeys involved in any given day will amount to more than 100 miles, a hire car must be used. Team managers have the appropriate application forms which require their signature.

Harlington Road Depot has a light van for hire. This may be a useful provision on occasion. 

Team managers are required, for insurance purposes, to maintain a list of all vehicles hired in a year. This list is to be forwarded annually to the insurance officer at the Finance Department.


10. Children with Disabilities

Some children with disabilities in care may qualify for a Mobility Allowance. This allowance may be claimed, under certain circumstances, by the designated local authority or a person named by it.

Such an allowance can, by way of the ‘Mobility’ scheme, be used to buy, lease or adapt a vehicle.

The above procedure would be particularly valuable for a foster carer caring for some children with disabilities and should be discussed, where appropriate, with the team manager, Family Placement Team.

The above also applies to any child with a disability qualified to receive Mobility Allowance and should be discussed with the families or any such child with whom we work.

End