Three hundred taxi drivers in South Lakeland are to receive child sexual exploitation (CSE) awareness training.
The compulsory training in spotting signs of the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults became mandatory for Hackney carriage and private licensed taxi drivers in South Lakeland after councillors on SLDC’s Licensing Regulatory Committee approved the revised Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy for adoption. It will help drivers to spot children and young people who may be vulnerable and understand how to help keep them safe from potential abusers.
New and existing taxi drivers from across the South Lakeland area are taking part in the education sessions, which have started this week (from 29 January 2019). The training is being carried out by children’s charity Barnardo’s and Cumbria Constabulary.
Taxi drivers will be made aware of typical and concerning behaviours to look out for, have common myths surrounding CSE dispelled and be advised about how they can report any concerns to police.
Nic Dunn, Children’s Services Manager for Barnardo’s said: “We know that in today’s digital age and with young people spending more time online than ever before, children from all backgrounds in all areas of the UK can be susceptible to grooming and exploitation.
“By implementing this CSE awareness training, South Lakeland District Council have ensured that hundreds of taxi drivers will now know what signs to look out for to spot children who could be vulnerable to exploitation, helping to protect them from potential danger. These taxi drivers can act as eyes and ears in the community, especially during the night time when people’s actions may not be as visible to others.
“We would like all night-time workers to be aware of the dangers – they are part of the solution and can play an active role in working together with authorities to help tackle this issue.”
Sean Hall, principal environmental protection officer, public protection, said: “Taxi drivers in South Lakeland are a qualified and professional body of men and women who take their responsibility towards the public very seriously. As part of the wider multi agency partnership we draw on to safeguard children, they act as the eyes and ears of the district and can play a valuable role in alerting the authorities about vulnerable people needing help.
“This revised policy will strengthen the awareness of the potential exploitation of children and vulnerable adults and make our district a safer place.”
Detective Superintendent Vicki Ellis, Head of Public Protection at Cumbria Constabulary, said: “We are delighted to be working with Barnardo’s on increasing the awareness of child sexual exploitation. By empowering as many people as possible with information on the signs of sexual exploitation we can hopefully put an end to the offences that are occurring.
“We are committed to tackling this crime and protecting young people. We will continue to work closely with Barnardo’s and our other partner agencies to ensure that children in Cumbria are safe from harm.”
Sarah Ibbetson, a taxi driver who attended this week’s training said: “The training was extremely valuable and highlighted to us that we’ve all got a role to play in tackling this issue. This training has given us the reassurance that it’s ok for us to get in touch with the police to report any concerns we have, and that the information we pass on is valued and will be treated seriously.”
The awareness training forms part of the work of Barnardo’s Believe initiative – a preventative service to tackle child sexual exploitation in Cumbria.
The focus of the Believe service is on prevention and early intervention, working with children aged from 10 to 18 years who are believed to be at risk of exploitation, as well as their families/carers. Children in primary schools are being educated around age appropriate understanding of healthy relationships.
In March 2018, more than 300 taxi drivers from across the Carlisle area received the CSE awareness training.
Workers from Barnardo’s have also carried out Real Love Rocks CSE awareness training with Girl Guide and Scout leaders in Cumbria, to enable them to deliver the CSE awareness programme to their young people across the region.