Taxi drivers in County Durham are to be trained to spot tell-tale signs of sexual exploitation of children.
All Hackney carriage and private hire drivers licensed by Durham County Council are to be required to undergo Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) awareness training, after more than half of people responding to consultation supported such action.
Already 683 taxi drivers – almost 40 percent of the 1,757 drivers licenced by the council – have received CSE awareness training on a voluntary basis.
Further free training sessions have been arranged by the Durham Local Safeguarding Children Board.
In consultation on changes to the council’s hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy, 56.2 percent of respondents agreed that all taxi licence applicants should be required to undergo awareness training to assist in the prevention and reporting of sexual exploitation.
As a result, all applicants will be required to undergo the training before they can be licensed and existing drivers who haven’t already completed one of the training sessions will have to attend one by 1 September 2016.
Knowledge tests for new applicants will also be changed to include questions around CSE awareness.
Cllr Brian Stephens, cabinet portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “One of the primary aims of taxi licensing is to protect and safeguard the public, especially our children and young people who are among the most vulnerable groups in society.
“By making it a requirement that all drivers undergo CSE training, we hope that we can help them spot signs of abuse and act on it accordingly.”
A number of other revisions have been made to the licensing policy, which was approved by full council earlier this month.
The policy has been amended to include some new requirements for both licensed vehicles and drivers to improve on existing standards and help safeguard the public.
For example drivers will be required to have their identification clearly visible to passengers and new vehicles will have to meet tougher emission standards.
The use of CCTV in all licensed vehicles will be strongly encouraged and drivers will be required to sign up to the Disclosure and Barring Service Update Scheme.
Basic numeracy testing will be introduced as part of the knowledge test while older vehicles will be required to undergo more frequent testing.
The amended policy will also see drivers have their licence suspended if they do not present their vehicle for testing at a specified time.
The consultation sought the views of members of the taxi trade, trade representatives, taxi service users and all relevant authorities and organisations.