COVENTRY’S taxi drivers are to be trained to spot the signs of sexual exploitation of children – and report suspicious activities to the authorities.
It follows a damning report into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham – where abuse of vulnerable children by gangs and a subsequent ‘cover-up’ by the authorities – became a national scandal.
The report into Rotherham flagged concerns about insufficient training for taxi drivers passing ‘fit and proper person’s’ tests to hold their licence.
The report also found there was insufficient communication between Rotherham council’s licensing, the police and the child protection agencies.
Coventry’s child protection agencies are under pressure in the wake of the Daniel Pelka tragedy, and the council’s children’s services department has been rated ‘inadequate’ by watchdogs Ofsted.
A wide-ranging programme aimed at improvement has been implemented.
Coventry council is now set to permanently introduce training on child sex exploitation to all taxi drivers.
It has been a part of training for new taxi licence applicants in Coventry for two years.
Free CSE training for existing drivers have been running on a temporary basis since June and expires at the end of August.
About 750 existing cabbies – about two-thirds of all drivers – are booked to do the voluntary training, a council report states.
It adds: “Coventry City Council believes that CSE training should be made mandatory for all Coventry City Council’s licensed
drivers and that this requirement as of 1 September 2015 should be made a compulsory requirement for the renewal of a Coventry City Council hackney carriage or private hire driver’s licence.
“The Rotherham report highlights that the safety of the public should be of the uppermost concern of any licensing and enforcement regime and that ‘there is nowhere more important than in taxi licensing where sometimes vulnerable people are unaccompanied in a car with a stranger.”
The taxi trade should provide “an extra pair of eyes and ears”, the report adds.