We recently found out that some plans had been made to contract a private company to “support” the SEND Transport department in Haringey. So, we went to an Overview and Scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday 3 December. Please, see all the session here (sendPACT’s contribution at 1:14:45).
The panel decided to refer back this proposal to cabinet, the meeting was set the next week (10th December) and we persisted in having a delegation. This was our parents/carers’ feedback to the meeting:
Dear Cabinet members,
My name is Marta Garcia de la Vega, parent/carer and I’m challenging the current proposal for SEND transport.
I’m the founder of the local parents/carers group sendPACT (and former Haringey Involve chair in 2016) and contributors to the fairness commissioning. My voice and experience here, is that of a parent/carer representative and also of a service user.
First, I would like to clarify one very important thing:
The SEND Transport service was working fine until 2015, the year when the SEND Transport “reforms” started, up until then, transport was working quite well.
Transport need improvement, not more cuts directed towards the most vulnerable in this society: disabled children and their families.
So I would like to raise, once again, these questions with you
- What evidence you have of parents been consulted about this? Because, to our knowledge, this never happened. Where is the evidence of this?
- How can you ask parents to trust any proposal where they have not been included or properly consulted?
- How left wing politicians promote a secret contract with a dubious private company to manage this much-needed service for disabled children?
- And, I’ll repeat my question from last week. I’m scared to think, for a profit-making company in the business of making money, what a gain-share on 40% will mean?
- How a private business profiting from cuts can improve services?
- How can you “improve” a service cutting 20% of their budget?
This is supposed to be a left wing council, with left wing politics.
A council where people are adequately consulted and have a say in their communities and services.
So, lastly, I would like for all cabinet members to see my delegation more than as an intervention to help disabled children, but also as a reminder to help Haringey council to keep its community spirit and high social aspirations, and to uphold its commitment to oppose cuts and privatisation. For this particular instance it will mean to meaningfully consult and include parents/carers in matters that affect their vulnerable children and families
We also had the chance to answer some of the questions with the following points:
I would like to establish a timeline of events regarding SEND transport and why we find it difficult to trust any reform where we are not consulted:
- I saw the new policy draft in late 2015. I attended a council meeting about this together with other parents/carers, we all agreed in how ignorant this draft was of the struggles of disabled children and their families.
- Subsequently the actual policy was released, a policy that was even worse than the draft.
- In September 2016 the reforms on transport started, many parents reported many disruptions, myself included. Issues will be progressively increasing in the upcoming years. We write both as sendPACT and as parents/carers raising this concerns with the LA.
- In 2017 they changed the procedure to request transport. From originally just informing your school, now parents/carers have to fill a gruelling over 10 page long online application, impeding accessing this service.
- In 2018, after two years of failings in transport, promoted by the reforms planned in 2015, parents start to voice their concerns louder.
- In April 2019 sendPACT start to work with the LA to implement co-production to prevent future issues.
- We are told that everybody respect co-production and we even met with the SEND manager about transport, ignorant that, while in the meantime, this proposal and “secret” contract is arranged without our knowledge, worse even, a decision is taken based on our concerns around transport, never including us or actually making a proper consultation of all local parents/carers. If there was a consultation, where is the evidence?
Finally, the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, decided to defer the award of the SEND transport contract to the private company while due diligence checks were carried out and more info sought about reported failings.
It’s sendPACT’s hope that this whole messy business is completely dropped and a real solution is co-produced with parents/carers in regards of transport as our Local Authority as promised in their compromise with co-production.