Torbay Council’s licensing department are enlisting the help of taxi drivers in helping to prevent potential harm to the young people of Torbay and raising the awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation.

Taxi drivers are being trained up to spot the warning signs of young people who may be experiencing Child Sexual Exploitation and how they can help young people by reporting what they have seen.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is the term used when a young person is coerced into a sexual relationship or situation by an adult. It can happen to any young person from any background. It often involves young people being offered something in return for performing sexual acts for example alcohol, cigarettes, mobile phones, money, gifts, drugs or simply in the belief that they are loved. Young people who are already in the cycle of CSE are sometimes used to lure others in.

Councillor Robert Excell, Executive Lead for Community Services, said “In some national cases taxi or private hire vehicles were used to take young people between locations, so the aim of this training was to highlight to drivers the kinds of things they may see or overhear that may indicate a child or young person could be at risk. It could simply be a ‘gut feeling’ that something isn’t quite right.

“We’re not asking drivers to take matters into their own hands, but to be more aware of who they’re picking up, where they’re going and perhaps to think more about the reason why they could be making that journey.

“A lot of separate pieces of information from members of the public can often be used by the police and pieced together. Our licensed drivers are no exception and, being in a unique position, they often hear or see things that they may not think are important, where in fact they may be just that.”

The training for taxi drivers is being provided by the Children’s Society as part of their national campaign to raise awareness of CSE among businesses and communities in general. As a result, licensed drivers are initially being offered the training for free, but after May the Hackney Carriage (Taxi) and Private Hire Policy may be updated to require that CSE training will be obligatory for all drivers. A small charge will need to be made for attending future training.

The warning signs associated with a young person who is experiencing CSE may be difficult to differentiate from “normal” teenage behaviours, however the outcomes can be devastating.

Anyone concerned about a child or young person should contact the Torbay Safeguarding Hub on 01803 208100 or contact the police on 999 if they believe a child is in immediate danger.

Further information about CSE and general information about keeping children safe can be found on the Torbay Safeguarding Children Board website www.torbaysafeguarding.org.uk

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