UPDATED, Friday November 25.
EVERY taxi driver in Liverpool is to undergo training to teach them how to spot child sexual exploitation.
The aim is for the cabbies to be covert “eyes and ears” to help stamp out the problem in the city.
All hackney and private hire drivers will have to undergo a two-hour training session, with a threat their licences will be refused if they fail to co-operate.
The move will mean that all existing drivers will be required to undertake mandatory safeguarding training before the renewal of their licences.
The first training sessions are scheduled to start as early as next month. With drivers being trained at the rate of 200 a month, it is expected to take a year for all taxi drivers in the city to undergo the mandatory training.
The Licensing Committee has agreed that all current licensed drivers should have training before their licence is renewed-licences are renewed every three years.
New drivers already have to take a safeguarding module as part of their training.
The training – a two hour course, free of charge to drivers – will be given by a licensing enforcement officer. The course has been developed in conjunction with the Safeguarding Board and Merseyside Police.
Councillor Christine Banks, chair of the Licensing Committee, said: “Child sexual exploitation is an extremely important issue and one which we want to make every effort to prevent.
“Taxi drivers are among those workers who have a key role in protecting young people- as the report to the committee said they can be the “eyes and ears” in spotting such activity.
“They can, for example notice young people being taken to different locations around the city and, while we are not asking them to eavesdrop on passengers, they could hear conversations which may indicate that a child is being exploited.
“The vast majority of taxi drivers would want to do all they can to protect young people and I am sure they will welcome this training which will better equip them to do so.”
It is anticipated that all of the city’s 4.700 licensed hackney and private hire drivers will have received training within a year.
They will be issued with a certificate on completion of the course which they will be required to produce when applying for their licence to be renewed.
The Licensing Unit has already started to contact drivers to advise them that training will be commencing shortly. The drivers will not have to pay any fee for the new training programme, which will be carried out by e licensing enforcement officer of the council.
Drivers will have to produce to their safeguarding certificates when they apply to renew their taxi licence, with a failure to produce the certificate preventing the driver renewing the licence.
The report adds: “Any driver refusing to attend the training will generally result in their next application for renewal being refused on the grounds of “other reasonable cause” .
Before any taxi permits are withdrawn drivers will be given the chance to appear before the council’s Taxi Driver Licensing Sub-committee to explain why they have not completed the training.