July saw the introduction of comprehensive statutory guidance for the taxi and private hire (PH) industry. Following the findings of the Jay and Casey reports, the government have taken action to improve the public's trust in the industry. The guidance was developed in consultation with as many relevant groups as possible to ensure everything is being done to safeguard the public.
Five months have gone by since then, and it’s been a tough time for the industry. Drivers and operators have been some of the harshest hit by coronavirus restrictions. Hopefully, with the announcement of a vaccine, there is an intensifying light at the end of the tunnel. Now that the future is starting to look more secure, it’s the right time to start securing your business for that future.
We look at some of the most important changes affecting the driver and vehicle licensing process across England and Wales. If you’re working within the industry and you aren’t familiar with the new guidance, you need to read this asap.
The DBS Update Service
The DBS Update Service is a subscription service allowing holders of Enhanced or Standard DBS certificates to keep their DBS info updated via an online portal. If anything changes in someone’s criminal history, it will automatically update the online record. It costs £13pa to sign up and a code is supplied allowing employers to view their applicant's information when needed.
From January 2021, anyone applying to be a licensed driver will need to be able to prove that they subscribe to the DBS Update Service. This subscription isn’t a replacement for a DBS certificate. Using the Update Service is conditional to being able to view the original certificate. This is so can verify the information. Without the original certificate, the Update Service becomes invalid.
Any licensee that doesn’t sign up to the DBS Update Service will be subject to fresh DBS checks being carried out every 6 months. While the Update Service isn’t free, it will save people money in the long term. Once you have signed up, you can continue using the information from a DBS Update Service registered certificate indefinitely.
The Jay and Casey reports highlighted a significant lack of awareness about safeguarding. Our nations taxi and PH network is in a unique position, meaning it is highly likely to be abused by criminal enterprises. Evidence of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and the ‘County-lines’ drug trade have all been found abusing this network.
However, the new statutory guidance states:
“it is overwhelmingly the case that those within the industry can be an asset in the detection and prevention of abuse or neglect of children and vulnerable adults .... All licensing authorities should provide safeguarding advice and guidance to the trade and should require taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake safeguarding training”
2021 will see safeguarding training become mandatory for any licensee. Drivers and operators are indeed in one of the best places to aid prevention efforts. Any training should have the following learning aims:
• How to provide a safe and suitable service to vulnerable passengers of all ages
• How to recognise what makes a person vulnerable
• How to respond to and report safeguarding concerns and where to get advice.
Many councils have already implemented safeguarding training over the past few years to great success. Having this training is essential to help safeguard the public.
CCTV in Cabs
The Department for Transport (DfT) acknowledge how useful cameras can be in both deterring crime and providing evidence in support of investigations. But they also recognise that the use of audio-visual recordings comes with a whole host of legal and ethical complications.
The DfT recommend that extensive consulting should be done within the local community and members of the night-time economy to establish whether it would be beneficial in a specific area. The guidance is also careful to state:
“Imposition of a blanket requirement to attach CCTV as a condition to a licence is likely to give rise to concerns about the proportionality of such an approach and will therefore require an appropriately strong justification and must be kept under regular review”
Before implementing anything, it is vital you understand the legal implications. The use of CCTV in taxis has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the DfT and the Information Commissioner's Office, regarding the implications for data protection.
The new standards state that it is mandatory for the use of CCTV to be seriously considered. Any decision made, either for or against its usage should be backed up with extensive reasoning and research.
Joint authorisation of enforcement officers
It is common for drivers to gain a licence with one authority when in fact, they are working and driving in another area. It’s what’s known as ‘Cross-border hiring’.
In principle, this may not seem like a problem, but it can cause difficulty for licensing officers. Currently, licensing officers have no power to enforce action against a driver licenced by a different authority. Legal grey areas like this are where criminal enterprises tend to thrive
From 2021, Licensing authorities should, where the need arises, jointly authorise officers from other authorities. This means that officers can enforce compliance and act against licensees from outside their area. A model for agreeing joint authorisation is available in the LGA Councillors’ handbook. This will help reduce any opportunities for drivers to evade enforcement through non-compliance with regulations.
That covers the biggest changes being brought in from January under the new guidance! In just 30 days, these new rules will come into effect. We cannot stress enough how important it is to familiarise yourself with the new guidance. You can find out more here.
If you need any information about how our services can help, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can tailor compliance solutions unique to you, you just have to get in touch!