Every taxi driver in Wolverhampton is to be offered training to help in the fight against child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the Black Country. The City of Wolverhampton Council is encouraging its licenced taxi drivers to act as "eyes and ears" in the fight against CSE, a crime in which perpetrators groom youngsters and emotionally and sexually abuse them. As part of a package of measures introduced last summer to focus driver training on public safety issues, the mandatory safeguarding awareness training for new drivers first offered in July 2015 is now being rolled out to every hackney carriage and private hire driver in the city.
Councillor Alan Bolshaw, chair of the City of Wolverhampton Council's Licensing Committee, said: “Taxi drivers are in a unique position of trust and can act as our eyes and ears on safeguarding issues – as such they have a very important role to play in the fight against CSE.
“Public safety is our foremost priority when licensing drivers, and this valuable safeguarding training has been mandatory for all new drivers since July 2015. We are now rolling it out to all of our existing drivers.
"It focuses on the ways that taxi drivers can contribute to keeping young people safe and offers not only an understanding of the issue of CSE but also guidance on what steps they should take if they have any concerns."
Parminder Sekhon, chair of the Taxi Owners Association, said: “The driver training for CSE has helped raise awareness of the issue in the trade, allowing drivers to recognise potential signs of abuse and know where to report these concerns.”
The council revised its compulsory training programme for licenced taxi drivers last year after Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children's Board and the council's Licensing Committee agreed that specific CSE awareness training should become part of the programme.
It has also improved the licensing process, strengthening guidelines around dealing with breaches of licence conditions and previous convictions which applicants may have, as a result of which more than 20 applications have been refused or licences withdrawn in the last 12 months.
Alongside the training programme, all drivers are being issued with credit card-style contact cards with information about where to report concerns and details of the regional See Me, Hear Me CSE campaign website, www.seeme-hearme.org.uk.
The council’s licensing team is in the process of writing to every private hire and hackney carriage driver in the city inviting them to training sessions and Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “This demonstrates the determination of the City of Wolverhampton Council to safeguard our children and young people by tackling child sexual exploitation.”