South Hams District Council has almost reached all of the 150 licensed taxi drivers from the District, with its valuable Taxi Driver Safeguarding training programme.

The training, which has been running since 2016, was held once again on 7 February at the Council's offices in Totnes. In total 139 licensed taxi drivers have now been trained.

The aim of the free training course is to raise awareness about Child Sexual Exploitation and how to protect vulnerable people. It helps the drivers to spot the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation or vulnerable people at risk, how to report any concerns, and where to report them.

The course is run throughout the year under the Community Safety Partnership, which is a multi-agency partnership covering the Council areas of South Hams, West Devon and Teignbridge.

Community Safety Partnership Lead, Cllr Tom Holway said: "We decided to make the training of our taxi drivers mandatory because the safety of our communities is incredibly important.

"Equally important is the role that taxi drivers play because they come into contact with so many different people on a daily basis. They are the eyes and ears of our community.

This training drives the message home, that if drivers see something, they should say something. It provides them with vital information and tools on how to do that."

A taxi driver who attended the course said: "I had no idea how easy it could be for me to be complicit in things like drug-running or child sexual exploitation. I'm really glad that this training has been made available to us because I have surely learned a lot."

Another driver added: "I'm so pleased about this training. I have also experienced some of the issues that were raised in the training and I didn't always know how to respond as a driver. But now I have knowledge of what to do next time this happens on the job."

This course is one of many that takes place around the country and has been identified as a valuable training opportunity in the South West. It is designed to show the drivers what Child Sexual Exploitation is, the tactics that perpetrators use, how safeguarding can involve the taxi trade unknowingly in trafficking and how to report a concern. The same training was also held at West Devon Borough Council.

The next course will be held on 5 June 2018. If you are a licensed taxi driver and you would like to get involved, please email Licensing@swdevon.gov.uk to reserve a place.