Calderdale Council: getting taxi drivers on board

Taxi drivers have a unique reach into society. Theysee and hear things the statutory agencies never could. With this in mind, Calderdale Council launched an ambitious plan to train all 1,000 licensed taxi drivers in a host of safeguarding issues, including Prevent. This case study forms part of our counter extremism resource.

Calderdale Council has worked with taxi drivers to maximise the reach of its Prevent work.  It has been able to recruit dedicated staff, including a Prevent coordinator. The focus for the future will be working with women and schools.

Taxi drivers have a unique reach into society. Ferrying passengers around, they get to see and hear things that the statutory agencies never could.

With this in mind, Calderdale Council launched an ambitious plan to train all 1,000 licensed taxi drivers in a host of safeguarding issues, including Prevent. It did this – all in three months over the summer of 2015.

During four-hour sessions, drivers received advice about how to spot the signs of radicalisation, child sexual exploitation, hate crime and domestic violence.

Half-an-hour was also set aside for drivers to raise their own issues, whether that was related to verbal abuse from passengers or licensing and vehicle inspection issues, in the spirit of developing a two-way partnership.

To accompany the training, which was delivered by a former police inspector, the council and police have produced a handbook with all the relevant details of who to contact and when.

What is more, it has now become mandatory for new taxi drivers to receive the training as part of the licensing process.

Feedback on the project has been extremely positive. One driver said: “It made me realise it’s not all about driving,” while another described the training as “great” adding: “It filled me with confidence and made me think about the community.”

Jo Richmond, the council’s Neighbourhoods and Cohesion Manager, says: “Taxi drivers can play a really important role. They can be our eyes and ears. It is about helping them to understand when they may need to act. “

They came under fire in some of the child sexual exploitation cases that have come to light so this is about helping them to understand more about the risks out there and how they can work in partnership with us and the police.” But the taxi driver training forms just one part of a renewed push on radicalisation by Calderdale.

The area, part of West Yorkshire, has been vulnerable to a range of extremist elements for some years. In January 2007 a major counter-terrorist action ‘Operation Ice’ took place in Calderdale which resulted in the arrest, detention and sentencing of two residents. The far right is also active with the English Defence League running an active branch in Halifax, while the British National Party and National Front have contested council elections.

Following recent changes the council has been given the funding for a Prevent coordinator and a community engagement officer. The recruitment of both has taken place during autumn 2015 with the latter having a specific focus on schools and young people.

They sit within the Neighbourhoods Team and work closely with the Community Safety Partnership and multi-agency Community Impact Assessment Group, which manages community tensions. Calderdale has also recently established a Channel Panel.

The taxi driver project was obviously an example of this renewed focus on Prevent, but so too is the work the council is doing with women. In 2014 a working group was established with local women and council staff to start a dialogue about child sexual exploitation across communities in Calderdale.

The remit of this group has now been extended to include Prevent work, while two local Muslim women are being paid to do outreach work in Park Ward, which has a high proportion of ethnic minority groups.

The aim is to set up a network of local women to create a forum for female residents to share thoughts, experiences and views and ultimately keep children safe.

And in March 2016 a safeguarding conference, run by local women, is being planned.

Working with schools will also be a big part of Calderdale’s focus. A workshop has already been held with school governors, setting out the roles and responsibilities of schools and how the community engagement officer can help.

In the coming months ‘Web Guardian’ workshops will be offered. These are run by the Jan Trust and are aimed at helping parents to understand how they can keep children safe online.

Meanwhile, the council is in the process of cascading down Prevent training on what front-line staff across the council can do to support the work. Six staff have taken part in Prevent ‘Train the Trainer’ courses with another two in the process of completing it. This core group will now start training colleagues.

Robin Tuddenham, the council’s Director of Communities and Service Support, says:

Supporting vulnerable individuals and reducing the threat of violent extremism is a priority for the council and that is why we are working hard to ensure it becomes part of our day-to-day work. You can’t just land these schemes into the community. You have to work in partnership to achieve results and integrate it into the wider work you do. That is what we have been trying to do.