Hundreds of Wigan taxi drivers have been trained to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation.
More than 1,000 private hire and hackney carriage drivers have been given grounding in how to identify possible CSE case, how to report their suspicions and how to help disabled or vulnerable passengers.
They are things that we probably wouldn’t have thought about before unless shown the signs. We wouldn’t have spotted them before. If it stops just one child being abused then it is worthwhileTaxi driver
Over the last five months Wigan Council’s licensing team has arranged for the drivers to attend a mandatory training session to raise awareness of both subjects.
It comes just weeks after South Ribble Council’s cabinet was accused of “covering up” a report which detailed how taxi drivers had not undergone the correct safeguarding checks, leaving children, especially those that got taxis to and from school, at risk.
Efforts to protect children have been stepped up across the country since it was discovered that more than 1,400 children in Rotherham had been groomed and exploited by a gang of men over a number of years.
Both its council and the local police were criticised for the way they handled the abuse.
Seizing the initiative, Wigan Safeguarding Children’s Board was set up and the borough has since been hailed by Ofsted for its innovative approach to tackling CSE.
One driver to undergo the training, Steven McClymont, from the Wigan branch of the Hackney Carriages Association, said: “The training was really good. They gave examples of scenarios that had happened in other towns and what we should look out for here such as dropping children at an address regularly that isn’t their home.
“They are things that we probably wouldn’t have thought about before unless shown the signs. We wouldn’t have spotted them before. If it stops just one child being abused then it is worthwhile. All taxi drivers have to do this now before they get their licence. I have been a taxi driver for 14 years and I think they should have done this years ago. We know how to report it now as well. If it was an emergency we should ring 999 and officers will be with us straight away because it is a priority or ring 101.
“During the training, they told us that most reports of CSE in Liverpool come from taxi drivers so it just shows how vital it is.”
Julie Middlehurst, council group manager of regulatory services, said: “Licensed private hire and hackney carriage drivers can play a pivotal role in helping to protect young people and vulnerable adults.
“The safety of the passengers carried by licensed drivers is of utmost importance, and we are really pleased that a large percentage of our drivers have already attended this training, and more importantly have provided us with such positive feedback.”
The training was arranged in conjunction with Wigan Safeguarding Children’s Board and Wigan Safeguarding Adults Board which are part of a multi-agency approach to tackling CSE being piloted in the borough.