NEW FOREST taxi drivers will have to pass a new “safeguarding” test before being granted a licence, under new rules.
New cabbies and those refreshing their licences must now undergo a training programme and pass a test to operate with one of the district council’s approximately 500 permits.
The change follows guidance issued to authorities around the country by the Department for Transport in February to protect vulnerable passengers.
The new system for licensed private hire and hackney carriage vehicles was discussed by councillors on the general purposes and licensing committee which met at NFDC’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.
A report said: “In recent years, awareness of the consequences of child sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable adults has been highlighted with several high profile cases across the country.
“Case reviews have identified the importance of licensing processes in order to prevent abuse and promote the safeguarding of the public.”
The process will involve applicants receiving a package of safeguarding information before attending a 40-minute training session at Appletree Court and then taking a test.
They will only get a licence if they correctly answer 80% of questions. Drivers who fail the will be able to retake the test but only after attending the training session again. The A&T understands at least one driver had to take it three times before passing.
Drivers will have to go through the procedure every three years when they renew their licences as normal. The price will stay the same.
Bligh Hunt, manager at Galleon Taxis in New Milton, was confident none of her drivers would have any issues but questioned whether cabbies might struggle with the test if their first language was not English.
She added: “Most of my drivers are on school runs and carry vulnerable children, so I think they will pass with flying colours.
“I do think it would be quite unfair if one of my drivers – some have been driving for up to 15 years – couldn’t pass, though. That would be a bit wrong.”
The safeguarding awareness training module has already been successfully used with new applicants, said the report, and had received positive feedback from the Hampshire Safeguarding Children’s Board, made up of public bodies such as the police, councils and NHS.
The report added: “The need to raise awareness of safeguarding issues within the taxi trade is clearly recognised and the trade has an important role to play in conjunction with licensing authorities to protect the public.”