An inquiry is due to be launched after nearly 300 children and young people with SEND were unable to get to school because transport contracts were not arranged in time.
Kent Country Council (KCC) apologised for the mistake, and said they were “extremely sorry for the worry and anxiety” they caused families as a result.
The council say they will now make changes to contracts and will try to resolve the situation “as soon as possible”.
A national shortage of bus and taxi drivers
KCC said the issue arose due to a national shortage of bus and taxi drivers due to the pandemic and “other factors”.
The situation was also exacerbated due to the growing number of students needing transport, which has risen by 20%.
“We have a statutory duty to provide transport for every eligible student. But this significant increase in demand for transport and the shortage of drivers in Kent, has meant that we’ve had to make changes so that we can meet our statutory duty and continue to allow eligible pupils to receive assistance to and from school or college,” the council said.
They added that transport changes will be made “as thoughtfully as possible,” while making sure there is enough capacity in the transport network to accommodate the rising number of eligible pupils.
The families of children with arranged transport issues said they were “left in the dark” about plans and had to frantically try and find out whether their child’s route and pick up time had changed.
Emma Ben Moussa, who’s son Sami attends a special school in Gravesend, toldKent Online that her son had been picked up by the same drivers for the past two years.
Since Sami is autistic, Emma was particularly concerned that any disruption to his routine could cause him unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety.
Another parent, Sarah from Hadlow, told the BBC that she had “no communication” from KCC about the situation, which caused her child to become “really distressed.”
“Another breach of trust”
Parents in similar situations across Kent are now accusing KCC of failing to listen to them about their valid concerns, with Labour councillor Lauren Sullivan saying the situation represented “another breach of trust” between KCC and families of children with SEND.
Further details about when the review will take place and whether it will happen internally or externally are currently unclear, but conservative councillors are pushing for a “quick” and “timely” inquiry to ensure that changes are made swiftly.