Taxi drivers across South Derbyshire will now have to under-go specialist training so they can spot the signs that a child is being sexually exploited.
The new compulsory training will undertaken by taxi drivers and will instruct them on how to spot young people who could be at risk of sexual exploitation. It comes after several notable cases across the country in Rochdale, Rotherham and Derby in recent years, which saw hundreds of children sexually abused by gangs of men. Although there aren't currently any problems to do with child sexual exploitation in the area, staff at the council say that are always keen to protect members of the public.
Drivers will be trained to look for the signs that a child is being abused, such as a child using inappropriate sexual behaviour, and to be able to spot youngsters who would be at risk of being sexually exploited.
A report issued to councillors said that private hire drivers are in a unique position to be able to identify the signs of child sexual exploitation. The report said: "These proposals will continue to demonstrate to members of the public that the council takes the protection of local residents, children and vulnerable adults from the potential harms of private hire licensing seriously, which contributes to the theme of safety and security."
South Derbyshire District Council has become one of the first in the country to make the training mandatory for all drivers of private hire taxis who work in the area. It had introduced the training because the authority says taxi drivers are in a prime position when it comes to spotting children who might be at risk and so they can help youngsters and help catch perpetrators.
The decision to introduce the training was made at a meeting of the council's at the latest meeting of the environmental and development services committee.
Drivers across the area already have to undertake training on how to deal with people with disabilities, but under the new regulations, they will now have to undergo more training to help safeguard youngsters they transport in the area.
District councillor Andy Roberts, who has run his own taxi business in Hatton for more than 30 years proposed the motion and said of the move: "I think it's an excellent idea.
"I have done the job for 30 years. Some people are doing taxi driving as a part-time job, so might not have had as much training as others.
"With my expertise I can usually pick up on these sorts of things, but I have found from training as a taxi driver and as a councillor, you will always learn something new.
"I think we should all go through the training. Anyone who works with the public should know what to do if they are worried about anyone's welfare."
Policies for Private Hire drivers are reviewed by South Derbyshire councillors every three years, and it is hoped that the new mandatory training will help to keep vulnerable people in South Derbyshire safe from harm.
The council has also ensured that drivers will not have to pay for the extra training as it will be offered as part of a package approved by Derbyshire County Council. Any drivers that have already undergone similar training will not have to have more as long as they can supply the district council with a certificate to prove that they have completed acceptable sexual exploitation training.
Taxi firms in Swadlincote have been supporting the training, saying that they would always be happy to be given more training.
A spokesman for Bloors Private Hire, in Hartshorne said: "I have no problem with the council introducing this to make drivers more aware of child exploitation. It's a really important issue.
"A lot of our drivers have already undergone training like this, but we're always happy for more training.
"As long as they don't introduce maths and English tests like they have in Derby, we'll be happy. Asking someone to carry out tests like these is just insulting!"
All taxi drivers across South Derbyshire will have until November 1, 2019, to complete the new training on child sexual exploitation, and any drivers who have not completed the training by this date will see their licenses suspended. Any new applicants for private hire licenses will have to complete the training before their license is issued.