Burnley Council is set to introduce training to raise child sexual exploitation (CSE) awareness among taxi drivers, in line with advice and guidance from national experts.
The council is recommended to incorporate CSE training as a requirement for all hackney carriage (black cab) and private hire drivers licensed in the borough.
The training is aimed at providing taxi drivers with the means to recognise vulnerability and act positively in engaging with other agencies, providing guidance as to how they should behave with all customers, not just young people, and how the council and taxi trade can work together using the drivers as our “eyes and ears” out there.
The CSE training has been developed throughout east Lancashire by licensing officers to ensure a consistent approach to training and has the support of the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner.
If agreed, the new rules would mean all existing drivers who complete a council-approved awareness course before the end of this year could so without any cost to them. Any new driver or operator licence applicants would have to cover the £15 cost themselves.
The council has been in discussions with the taxi trade regarding introducing the awareness course.
The council’s principal licensing officer Peter Henderson said: “Everyone has a role to play in tackling child exploitation.
“Taxi drivers can find themselves in situations where they are with young people who could be in a vulnerable state or who could be in need of help. We want all our drivers and operators to be better informed about the issue of child exploitation and people trafficking and be able to act in a positive way if necessary.
“This is about supporting the wider work that the police and other agencies are doing to protect vulnerable young people. It’s about introducing ‘best practice’ and giving drivers and operators some basic knowledge and information so that, if a situation does arise, they know how to deal with it.
“We all have a role in tackling child sexual exploitation and the basic rule is ‘if there’s doubt, there is no doubt’. If a taxi driver is concerned about the safety of a young person in their cab this course will show that what they should do.”
The course will be delivered by safeguarding professionals at Burnley College who worked with specialist officers from Lancashire Police. Training is expected to take around two hours to complete.
The report to the licensing committee highlights the inquiry into the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal which found that “there is nowhere more important than in taxi licensing where sometimes vulnerable people are unaccompanied in a car with a stranger.”
Burnley’s approach is about acting in line with the best practice nationally.
It is part of the wider partnership working between the council and the taxi trade to make sure that everyone who uses taxis can be confident about the service they are receiving.
The training for drivers and operators has five core themes:
- Basic CSE awareness, signs and symptoms
- Recognition of their own responsibilities
- Recognise how they should behave professionally
- How they can report any concerns, suspicions they have
- Understanding victims – breaking myths