Review into the changes to SEND transport
At a number of recent Council meetings, through our Chief Legal Officer, the Council has made a public commitment to independently review the service failures in the redesign of school transport for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) that took place in February 2022.
We have set out below the details of:
We also explain how the experiences and feedback from families affected will feed into the review, as well as how Kent PACT will be involved.
Given the significant and distressing impact of the services failures in redesigning school transport on children and young people with SEND, and their families, it is vital that the review is conducted independently and swiftly so that lessons can be learned and implemented quickly and meaningfully.
Who will conduct the review
The Head of Internal Audit and Counter Fraud has been appointed by the Head of Paid Service, the General Counsel and the Corporate Director of Finance (who all have statutory duties to ensure the lawful conduct of the council’s business) to lead the initial phase of the review into the changes to SEND transport that took place in February 2022.
The Internal Audit Team have already started the review, which will be conducted in accordance with Public Sector Internal Audit Standards and the Internal Audit Charter, which sets out the following expectations and requirements:
- The Head of Internal Audit and Counter Fraud has free and unrestricted access to any information or persons within the council and freedom to report in his or her own name.
- Where the Head of Internal Audit and Counter Fraud considers that the scope of audit work is being restricted, the Corporate Director of Finance and the Governance and Audit Committee will be advised.
- Should the independence or objectivity of the Internal Audit service be impaired in fact or appearance, the Head of Internal Audit and Counter Fraud will disclose details of the impairment to the Corporate Director of Finance or the Chair of the Governance and Audit Committee.
- Any impairments to the independence of Internal Audit must be reported within the Annual Head of Internal Audit Report to the Governance and Audit Committee.
- All staff within Internal Audit and Counter Fraud have to declare any potential or perceived conflicts of interest for any individual audit they undertake and more generally on an annual basis.
The Internal Audit service is not and will not be influenced by anybody within the council, be it a politician of any persuasion or rank or any officer.
Scope of the review
The scope of the review has been set by the Head of Internal Audit and reviewed by the Statutory Officers to include the issues below.
This is the initial phase of the review, and it is expected that the scope will broaden depending on the facts and issues uncovered during the review by Internal Audit. No other officer or politician has been involved in setting the remit. It does not need to be signed off by the Council as it is independent.
The scope includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- the impact upon families and children
- the consultation process with parents, carers and Kent PACT
- the re-tendering and contract award processes
- project planning and change management arrangements
- review of risk management and assurances before implementing the changes
- the communication process with parents, carers and Kent PACT between December 2021 and March 2022
- the governance arrangements in place in the Growth, Environment and Transport directorate and in the Children, Young People and Education directorate
- cross-directorate governance and communication
- the effectiveness of short-term remedial actions from February 2022.
How the review will be conducted
The Head of Internal Audit will talk to a wide range of officers, as well as the relevant politicians, conduct an analytical review, examine documentation and conduct sample testing as necessary.
The Head of Internal Audit and the General Counsel have already spoken with Kent PACT, who represent the voice of parents and carers and their children, and will be talking to them further during the review.
Kent PACT will be providing an extensive document (more than 150 pages) detailing individual experiences, concerns and complaints from parents and carers that reflects the impact on children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families. The Internal Audit Team will review this document thoroughly and decide whether any further information is needed directly from parents, carers and their children.
Internal Audit will also be provided with the feedback received directly from parents and carers.
Once the relevant facts have been established and validated, the Head of Internal Audit will discuss their findings with the 3 statutory officers; the Head of Paid Service, the General Counsel and the Corporate Director of Finance and will produce a report of their findings.
Any action subsequently taken will depend on the nature of these findings, including any need to involve an external organisation in conducting a review into certain elements or to provide advice on next steps.
The outcomes will be shared transparently and discussed at relevant public committee meetings including Cabinet and Scrutiny. All issues identified will be monitored formally at the Governance and Audit Committee.
Unfortunately, we cannot yet give a definitive timescale as completion of the review is dependent on relevant documentation and explanations being provided promptly and officers and Members being available in a timely manner.
However, the review has already started, and the General Counsel and the Head of Internal Audit have prioritised resources to make sure the review is completed as quickly as possible.
Cost of the review
It is not known at this stage what costs, if any, will be incurred but full information about any money spent on the review will be published once the review has concluded.