TAXI DRIVERS across the borough have joined the fight against child sexual exploitation (CSE).
More than 1,000 of the borough’s private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers have undergone training sessions to help spot the warning signs and what to do if they’re concerned about a child.
The free sessions, run by Solihull Council, taught the drivers that CSE is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background.
It is child abuse and can see perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
It can also take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.
Describing taxi drivers as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the borough, Councillor Ken Meeson, cabinet member for children, education and skills, said: “By providing them with the information they need so they can recognise the signs of potential exploitation, taxi drivers can play a vital role in spotting and reporting suspicious behaviour.
“We’ve offered all licensed taxi drivers in Solihull the opportunity to attend one of these free sessions, and I’m delighted that so many have taken up the opportunity and are playing their part to help drive down this horrific abuse crime.”
As part of the training, the Hackney carriage and private hire drivers were given an information leaflet that they can carry around with them, which highlights signs such as noticing strange behaviour in a child or seeing young people or groups of men being dropped off at certain locations.
It also includes a checklist of things to take note of and details of who to contact if they have any concerns.
Councillor Peter Hogarth, chair of Solihull’s Licensing Committee, added: “Preventing CSE is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to increase our awareness of it. Most of our licensed taxi drivers are already displaying ‘Stop the Traffick’ stickers in their vehicles to reinforce the message that child trafficking is not allowed in their taxi, and this free training aims to develop their knowledge around the risks of CSE and how they can play their part in tackling it.”
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 359 5333 or in an emergency call 999.
Visit www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more information about child sexual exploitation.