25 February 2016

Taxi drivers in Sheffield will be equipped to support vulnerable passengers following the launch of a new course that helps them recognise when passengers need extra help, or when they see suspicious behaviour.

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Passengers course was officially introduced this week at The Sheffield College. It has been developed over the years to help taxi drivers become the eyes and ears of the community, so they’re better able to identify and report situations where a customer appears vulnerable. This includes passengers who may be suffering financial exploitation, those who have communication difficulties, or people used in child sexual exploitation or human trafficking.

Sheffield has led the way in developing innovative approaches to safeguarding over the years and has received national recognition for this and a number of awards along the way. This course was piloted back in 2012 but is now widely available. Other authorities and national groups are adopting the approach. The feedback so far has revealed an increase in the number of taxi drivers reporting their concern.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families at Sheffield City Council, said: “We recognise the role that taxi drivers play in promoting our city and being our ambassadors. We also recognise that they can play an important role in helping us safeguard the most vulnerable people in our city.

“We’ve had good feedback from the drivers who have attended the training and I’d like to thank all of them who have been involved.

“These courses have been recognised nationally and have been shared with authorities across the country. This is partnership work at its best – it benefits the most vulnerable people in our community and the business and we look forward to continuing with this safeguarding partnership approach.”

The course was developed through a partnership including Sheffield City Council’s Licensing service, The Sheffield College and Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board. The course is mandatory for new drivers who are applying for a driver’s taxi licence. Existing drivers are also encouraged to take it. The move has been welcomed by the trade who often find themselves dealing single-handedly with safeguarding situations.

The course will be hosted at the Sheffield College. Heather Smith, Principal, The Sheffield College, said: “I am pleased to hear that successful partnership working with the local authority has led to the development of this important course. The College is committed to doing all it can to aid the social and economic prosperity of the city. Making sure the city’s citizens are safe is key to this.”