CABBIES in Warwick district will be trained to spot signs of potential child sexual exploitation before being allowed behind the wheel.
Warwick District Council’s executive agreed the move as part of a wider scheme to safeguard the public.
It means all licensed hackney carriage and private hire drivers operating in the area will have to prove they have undertaken a mandatory training course, while new drivers applying for a licence will be expected to take the course from scratch.
More than 350 drivers – over 75 per cent of all licensed drivers in the district – recently attended voluntary sessions run by Barnardos Child Sexual Exploitation Service.
During the sessions, the drivers were taught what child sexual exploitation is, the signs indicating a young person is a subject of exploitation, how it affects them as drivers and what they can do to prevent it from occurring.
The success of the sessions prompted the Drivers and Operators Forum – made up licenced drivers, private hire operators, police, the Unite union and council licensing officers – to push for the course to be made compulsory.
Under current legislation, hackney carriage drivers who let their licence lapse are required to take a disability awareness course before they are allowed to carry passengers again.
And the council has agreed to implement a similar policy for courses on preventing child sexual exploitation.
According to the authority, 174 of the district’s 488 licenced drivers did not take part in one of the nine courses on safeguarding and child sexual exploitation prevention offered back in January.
Participation in the courses, which has been voluntary until now, will become a requirement for all new drivers from April 1 and from July 1 for all current drivers who want their licences renewed.
Private hire operators will also need to ensure all staff, including call handlers, undertake the training.
The issue of whether officers could be given the power to refuse licences to those who fail or refuse to attend the course is set to be discussed at a meeting next month.
Council community protection spokeswoman, Moira-Ann Grainger, said: “I am delighted Warwick is the first council in Warwickshire to make child sexual exploitation training a requirement for all hackney carriage and private hire drivers.
“We are committed to tackling child sexual exploitation in our community to ensure vulnerable people are protected.”