Taxi drivers must take sexual exploitation awareness course

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Taxi drivers must complete a child sexual exploitation training course before being granted a licence to work in the district under new rules enforced this month.

The course run by charity, Barnardos covers what child sexual exploitation is, how to recognise or stop it, and how it affects drivers. It will be mandatory from April 1.

We are committed to tackling child sexual exploitation in our community to ensure vulnerable people are protected

Moira-Ann Grainger

Regulations were agreed at a meeting of Warwick District Council’s executive on Wednesday as part of UK-wide changes to tackle child abuse.

It follows a report into widespread exploitation cases in Rotherham where it was found taxis played a prominent role in moving vulnerable children around the town.

Training must be completed by all Hackney Carriage and private firm drivers- as well as call handlers- and has already been introduced as a voluntary scheme in what the council said was “welcomed” by a drivers forum.

But as just 77 per cent have so far taken up optional training, members agreed to make it a licensing requirement.

Cllr Moira-Ann Grainger, portfolio holder for community protection described the pioneering change as an important step.

She said: “The positive response that the course has been met with so far is tremendous.

“We are committed to tackling child sexual exploitation in our community to ensure vulnerable people are protected.”

So far 376 drivers have completed the training, with over 100 still to do so before the April 1 deadline.

The executive report stated that the move should be made mandatory in light of the numbers choosing not to attend optional sessions.

It read: “If the courses were not made mandatory, officers believe that this attendance rate would drop until there was no attendance.

“The Rotherham report highlighted that as the safety of the public should be of the utmost concern of any licensing and enforcement regime.

“And that there is nowhere more important than in taxi licensing where sometimes vulnerable people are unaccompanied in a car with a stranger.”

Councillors said feedback from drivers had been “positive” and that training was informative and relevant to their profession.