CABBIES in Stratford district are set to undergo training to spot signs of potential child sexual exploitation (CSE) before being allowed behind the wheel.
Stratford District Council is looking possibly at implementing a mandatory training course as part of a wider scheme to safeguard passengers.
The move follows an investigation into a “serious CSE incident” in Stratford – further details of which the Observer had been
unable to find out at the time of going to press.
The proposal would mean all licensed hackney carriage and private hire drivers operating in the area would have to prove they had taken the course, while new drivers applying for a licence would be expected to undertake the course, before being able to carry passengers.
Barnardos currently offers the CSE course free-of-charge to existing licensed taxi drivers as part of its ‘Something’s Not Right’ campaign.
And although it is only voluntary at this stage, more than 50 drivers – around a quarter of all licensed cabbies in the district – have already signed up to take part in one of the charity’s four courses being held in July.
During the sessions, drivers will be taught exactly what child sexual exploitation is, signs indicating a young person is being exploited, how it affects them as drivers and what they can do to prevent it occurring.
They will also learn about laws on human trafficking, safeguarding children and vulnerable people, making referrals and signposting people to relevant agencies.
Council chiefs are set to discuss the issue on Monday (June 20).
And if they back the move, members will then be asked to decide whether existing drivers should undergo training before their next licence renewal in 2019 or by the end of this year.
A report to councillors said: “The primary role of the licensing authority is the protection, safety and well-being of the public.
“Recently, a number of national high-profile safeguarding cases have received public attention, relating in particular to child sexual exploitation – the most prominent case involving hackney carriage and private hire drivers.
“It should also be noted a serious CSE incident was investigated in Stratford recently. This sadly identifies an existing problem within our district.
“Licensing authorities cannot monitor all the time and it is therefore recommended that taxi drivers receive training to
recognise the potential signs of CSE.
“If drivers are trained to look for this and know where to report their concerns, they can play an important role in helping stop the exploitation of vulnerable people.”
Neighbouring Warwick District Council was the first authority in the county to agree the move back in April.