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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-04990: Alison Harris (Central Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 23 November 2016

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5O-00329 by John Swinney on 10 November 2016, what its response is to concerns that, because of reductions to local authority budgets, some looked-after children are being asked to use taxis unescorted; what guidance it provides to councils regarding this and, in light of the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, what action it takes to ensure that (a) no child is put at risk and (b) the taxi drivers are subject to full disclosure checks.

Answered by: John Swinney 1 December 2016

Local authorities must use resources as efficiently as possible and deliver services effectively to ensure taxpayers get the best possible value. How this is done is a matter for each council - councils are autonomous bodies, responsible for managing their own day to day business and answerable to their electorates. Local Government has been treated very fairly under the SNP administration. The funding package for 2016-17 amounting to over £10.3 billion, was accepted by all 32 councils, and will be strengthened by our joint working to improve outcomes for local people through health and social care integration and by improving educational attainment. Taking into account the addition of the £250 million to support the integration of health and social care, the overall reduction in funding in 2016-17 compared to 2015-16 equates to less than 1% of Local Government’s total estimated expenditure in 2016-17.

As clearly stated in the reply to S5O-00329 each local authority develops bespoke guidance for the transport of all children. The safety of all Scotland's children is a top priority and we are committed to taking action to address all child sexual abuse. The Jay report into cases of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham recognised the role that taxi drivers, hotel workers, bar staff and other night-time economy workers

can play in protecting children and vulnerable adults. A number of local authorities have already taken forward work to raise awareness within the night-time economy, through community briefings and outreach work which strengthens links between statutory and voluntary services and the community.

Disclosure Scotland carry out Scottish Ministers’ functions under the Police Act 1997 and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (PVG). These criminal record checks are one part of good recruitment practice. The licensing of taxi drivers and private hire drivers by local councils under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 is carried out independently of Disclosure Scotland as neither the 1997 Act nor the 2007 Act checks can be used lawfully for that licensing purpose. However, these drivers can and do carry out transport functions for local councils and health boards with regard to children.

In cases where a local authority or a health board contracts with a taxi company to transport children to school, or to a hospital appointment in the absence of a parent of carer, then any driver providing that transport service can be asked to apply to join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme because the driver will be doing regulated work with children. As long as the PVG check does not show information that suggests the applicant might be unsuitable to work with children, then he or she will become a scheme member. With the permission of the subject of the check, information about the outcome of the PVG check can be shared with the contracting local council or health board.