Taxis sent to pick up autistic children without trained assistants to keep children safe were “accidentally operated by mistake”, the provider has said.

The start of a new term at St Christopher’s in Leigh was marred by transportation chaos as children with special educational needs were left waiting hours for buses or being told to get into taxis alone without support staff.

The chaos unfolded last week as children returned to school with Southend Council having swapped transport provider from 24x7 to Vecteo.

Vecto – a joint venture between the council and London Hire Community Services – has issued a statement apologising for the blunder-filled takeover.

READ MORE: Vecteo botches SEN transport takeover

Parents were left fuming after the company failed to organise meet and greets before the start of term. Meet and greets are a safeguarding necessity, for the children to meet their drivers and passenger assistants and for parents to inform the assistants of their child's personal needs.

In a recent statement the firm has claimed the taxis which were sent as replacements for bus services which were cancelled at the last minute, were "accidentally" sent without Passenger Assistants.

Richard Gerard-Sharp, Vecteo’s transport manager, said: “Vecteo would like to sincerely apologise for the disruption to transport services, particularly to St. Christopher’s School.

“To try and ease the situation taxi services were employed on the September 2 to provide additional cover. A small number were accidentally operated by mistake without Passenger Assistants. This error was identified and corrected straight away. A full investigation as to how this error arose will be conducted in due course, once all services are settled.

Mr Gerard-Sharp added: “Letters have been sent to parents affected providing the assurance that every effort is being made to improve these essential services. Where services have not met standards parents and carers would expect, we can only apologise and strive to ensure a safe and stable service is delivered moving forward."