Recognising the signs of child exploitation: Barnardo’s to offer free course to London taxi drivers

A leading children’s charity is urging cab drivers in London to undertake a new free course that could help save children from exploitation.

Barnardo’s, a children’s charity and the largest provider of child sexual exploitation (CSE) support services in the UK, is offering taxi drivers in the capital the chance to take part in a free online course that will help drivers detect the first signs of CSE.

The project, called ‘Nightwatch’, provides free training and guidance for those that work within the night-time economy. The charity trains people that work through the night, including hotel and bar staff and taxi and night bus drivers, to help them recognise and protect children and young people from CSE after dark.

Once trained, ‘Nightwatch Advocates’ then teach colleagues and those around them to also become part of a Nightwatch community.

A spokesperson for Barnardo’s charity said: “Everyday taxi drivers see and hear the daily lives of people using their vehicles. By being vigilant and curious, taxi drivers could recognise when a child is being sexually exploited. It might be overhearing young people talking about a party they are going to where there will be concerning adults, witnessing an adult with a child acting sexually inappropriately, or maybe a child telling you themselves that they are being harmed by others.

“Sometimes it can feel hard to intervene or act when you hear something you are worried about, we want drivers to feel increased confidence in their ability to report abuse and potentially make a life changing difference for a child.”

According to the children’s charity, taxi drivers can prepare themselves for situations of child sexual exploitation by:

  • Feeling confident to call the police or report concerns when something doesn’t feel right

  • Taking up opportunities to receive training around child abuse and exploitation

  • Preparing for a situation where a young person may ask them for help and thinking about how they would react.

Taxi drivers can look out for:

  • Children travelling late at night or when they should be in school

  • Children seeming anxious, scared or distressed

  • Children who appear angry, argumentative or

  • overly defensive

  • Adults who refuse to let children speak or seem to be controlling the child’s behaviour and movements

  • Children who are with an older person or group of older people who they do not seem to be related to

  • Children being taken to adult only venues or concerning areas, for example nightclubs, casinos or known areas for criminality

  • Children who appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The charity’s spokesperson added: “Barnardo’s Nightwatch training provides an introduction to child sexual exploitation. The training covers what we mean by child sexual exploitation, what can make children vulnerable to being exploited, why it is hard for children to speak out about abuse and how we can react to keep children safe. The free training is non- judgemental and opens up many avenues for reflection and debate.”

The training has helped numerous night-time sectors, ranging from the police to the hotel industry across the capital, to increase their understanding of CSE. By undertaking the Nightwatch training, the charity says that organisations have felt motivated to put child exploitation on their daily agenda.

As part of newly introduced statutory guidance in the summer, the taxi trade should expect the introduction of mandatory safeguarding and equality awareness training in the near future.