Council train Harrogate taxi drivers to spot child sexual exploitation

Traffic on Skipton Road (s)
Traffic on Skipton Road (s)

All taxi drivers in the Harrogate district are to receive training in spotting the signs of child sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) will offer training to all 550 taxi drivers after the high-profile Rotherham case highlighted the use of taxis.

The council said that the aim of the safeguarding training was to prevent child sexual exploitation and raise the awareness of signs of it amongst drivers.

A HBC spokesperson said: “The Jay Report said taxi drivers played a “prominent role” in the abuse in Rotherham.

“Taxi drivers are in a position of huge responsibility when it comes to transporting our vulnerable public.

“They will often see things that others don’t and can play a key role in reporting suspicious behaviour.”

HBC stressed that the training provided was a preventative measure and not a reactionary measure to a problem that already existed.

There is ‘no evidence’ that any drivers licensed in the Harrogate district are involved in child sexual exploitation, according to the council.

A taxi driver in Harrogate, Neil Smith, said he welcomed the training provided by the council and said that spotting and reporting warning signs were all part of their duty of care.

He said: “I think the training has been essential because of what’s been in the news recently in terms of the Rotherham scandal.

“The council needed to make people aware that children are vulnerable and drivers do need to look for signs of abuse.

“The training covered who were the relevant bodies to contact if we see signs of exploitation or trafficking so it was informative in that sense.

“It’s all part of our duty of care towards our customers and if drivers do see any signs, not just towards a child but towards adults, then they need to flag it up.

“We’ve always said that after 12am, drivers become support workers. A lot of people don’t know their own address so you sit there and try to help them.

“It’s all part and parcel of the job. That’s what we are there for, to get people home safely.”

The training, initially provided on a voluntary basis, included six one-hour sessions delivered free of charge by the Safer Communities Officer.

HBC now want all drivers trained and are in the process of considering how this will be achieved for those who missed out on recent sessions.

Around 400 out of the 550 drivers in the Harrogate district have received this training to date.