The Government’s decision to amend the Police and Crime Bill to regulate taxis better is welcome news to Barnardo’s. The new clause would place local authorities under a duty to consider how they can prevent child sexual exploitation when they issue licences for taxis and private hire vehicles.
This new measure is needed urgently. The nature of the driver’s role – including having reason to drive at night and to carry children and young people as passengers – can create conditions which make child sexual exploitation more likely.
Of course we know that the vast majority of taxi drivers are law-abiding, but taxis and private hire vehicles have consistently been linked to cases of child sexual exploitation.
In some cases taxi drivers themselves are the offenders, but they can also unwittingly ferry young people to abusers.
This is an important step forward but there’s much more to do if we are serious about preventing this horrific crime. Improving training and awareness for taxi drivers, and other night-time workers, means they can play a part in keeping vulnerable children safe from harm. They need to feel confident to spot the signs of exploitation and be able to report it, as well as acting as a deterrent for potential offenders.
Taxi drivers can become the eyes and ears of the community.
It takes a whole community to keep children safe and preventative work must focus not just on the police and statutory agencies, but also on private sector workers, especially those in the night-time economy.
Director, Barnardo’s East Region