Hailing a safer era

Taxi drivers are being helped to improve their English language skills, ready for when they need to renew their licence.

From September 2022, anyone who renews a taxi licence in Buckinghamshire will need to pass an English language test to ensure all drivers can speak and understand English at an appropriate level.

Taxi drivers are in a unique and ideal position to spot and report safeguarding issues by being able to identify when a passenger is being pressured into doing something or is being taken somewhere against their will.

Previously, all taxi drivers needed to have a good standard of English, but this was not always assessed in an independent test.

Now, the government has introduced new requirements, which mean anyone renewing a licence will need to show that they have a standard of English that enables them to identify potential exploitation to protect children and vulnerable adults.

If drivers do not pass the test, they will be unable to renew their licence.

In Bucks, taxi licences are renewed every three years, so those who had a licence issued or renewed three years ago will be the first drivers who need to pass the assessment from September 2022.

Drivers who have already passed the test or hold an equivalent qualification do not need to take the test. To support taxi drivers across the county, Buckinghamshire Council has joined forces with Bucks Adult Learning and educational group, Pearson, to provide a preparation workshop, with a mock assessment to prepare for the real test.

Bucks Adult Learning is also providing a 14-week ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course to improve English-speaking skills for those that may need it.

Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness and Regulatory Services, Nick Naylor, said: ‘Safeguarding vulnerable people is incredibly important, and we are fortunate that our taxi drivers are in a position that they can help us to tackle cases of county lines, child trafficking and other serious safeguarding issues.

‘However, this can only be done if our drivers have a good understanding of the English language and can understand conversations happening between their passengers.’

Head of Pearson TalentLens UK, Matt Stevens, said: ‘Working together, we have evolved our processes to meet the challenges of the current environment and address a need for a reliable English Language testing service that meets the new guidance for safeguarding.’

To sign up to the Bucks Adult Learning workshop, visit the website. For more information and to book a test with Pearson go online.