This is a guest blog post from the NWG Network. They work to tackle child sexual exploitation and are a leading nationwide authority on the subject.
In the last few years, our society has become increasingly aware of sexual abuse and exploitation because of the #MeToo movement. What started in the worlds of entertainment and sport has started spreading to more and more areas, including child care homes, religious settings and schools.
We know from years of work tackling child sexual exploitation that perpetrators of abuse are very opportunistic and target areas where they’re able to abuse children and adults. Driving instructors are usually in one to one situations, and some may be very good at spotting opportunities in environments with less protective factors.
Like all professionals who work with children and young people, it’s important Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) know how to act if they suspect possible abuse.
Learners are vulnerable
You might not think learner drivers need much protection. But think of it this way - they’re a vulnerable person, locked in a secure setting, with little or no control over where they are going and they may never think to ask why they may be driving in such a remote area.
This is why it’s so important to make sure learner drivers are protected.
The number of reports of learner drivers being abused by their instructor is a tiny minority. But the rise in reports of abuse in the last few years highlights how vulnerable learner drivers are.
We know negative media reports can be damaging and may lead to learners not getting the expert teaching that is required to develop the drivers of the future. We’d like to help tackle this.
What you can do to protect your reputation
Nearly all of you conduct yourselves appropriately in every single lesson. However, abuse does happen, and we thought it’d be useful to give you some advice to help protect your reputation.
The best way to protect yourself and your reputation is to be upfront and honest with all pupils.
At the beginning of each lesson, spend 5 minutes giving them some clarity about where the lesson is going on the day and what areas of driving will be covered.
This simple tip can stop any miscommunication between you and your pupil on what you’re doing and where they’re going.
Abuse by other instructors
We know not all learner drivers you teach have never driven before. Some may have come to you after leaving another driving school or instructor.
Something you should always consider is why? In most cases, it’s likely they were just unhappy with their progress or didn’t get on with the previous instructor. But sometimes it might be more serious.
We know many children have left sports clubs due to an individual coach’s behaviour, but nothing was ever said. The coach has then been left to continually abuse other children, sometimes for many years.
In the case of Barry Bennell (a football coach who was convicted of abusing many young footballers over a significant period of time), many other football coaches knew what he was doing but failed to act to protect children.
So, what happens if a learner discloses to you that they were uncomfortable with a previous instructor’s personal behaviour? What if you witness inappropriate behaviour from another instructor which could be construed as ‘grooming’?
In these cases what would you do and who would you go to?
How to safeguard
The best way to learn about dealing with these situations is to attend a safeguarding course. Education is one of the best ways to improve learner and instructors safety.
You can find a safeguarding course on the Ofqual website.
We fully endorse all driving instructors attending safeguarding courses in order to protect learners, but also themselves and the industry. You should showcase your safeguarding qualifications in the same manner that you do your advance driving qualifications.
Remember, safeguarding isn’t about teaching what you should and shouldn’t do around your pupils, instead it’s about giving you the information you need to deal with situations like the above examples.
So, if you ever sadly come across inappropriate or abusive behaviour please make sure you pass this onto the relevant authority. Don’t rely on someone else to do it for you.
Prompt action could protect you, your learners and other vulnerable people being abused.
There’s information on GOV.UK for learner drivers about how to complain about a driving instructor.
If you get any pupils who tell you they’ve experienced inappropriate conduct from another instructor, please do explain to them that they can tell us about it.
You should also contact your Local Authority if you have concerns about your pupils safety and well-being.
Comment by Angus McFarlane posted on
DVSA really needs to be careful with this. Really, really careful.
Of course, people need to be protected, but I'm not sure effectively encouraging everyone to complain is necessarily the right way to go about it.
My blood runs cold at the thought of what would happen if a false complaint were ever made against me - or anyone else. It would be almost impossible to disprove, and the act of trying to do so would create enough mud that sticks, you'd never wash it off.
There are plenty of examples of false accusations which have only been overturned after the accused have served prison sentences. Their lives are in ruins.
It strikes me that this is just jumping on the bandwagon without thinking of the consequences.
Or maybe the aim is to have the entire ADI Register composed of women? That would fix everything, right?
Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on
Thanks for your comment. Our counter-fraud team investigate all complaints made extremely thoroughly, to make sure the right action is taken. The purpose of the blog post is not encourage false complaints, instead we have worked with NWG network to give ADI's guidance on what to do if they suspect their pupil is or has been exploited. We hope the vast majority of you will never have to deal with this, but we think it's vital ADI's have the tools and knowledge to help keep themselves and vulnerable people safe.
Comment by Delwer Khakh posted on
Thanks for the update by email.
If two industry’s are similar.
Both of the above roles involve safeguarding.I am fully aware of safeguarding as I have helped my wife work through her NVQ in safeguarding so will that training count towards CPD.
To apply in my every day role is an ADI.
Elderly and young are more vulnerable as highlighted could be faced with a tricky situation.
Please check and advise.
Comment by Patricia Smith posted on
Not all abusers are men
Comment by Kevin Mitcham posted on
I appreciate the rise in complaints still means that the perpetrators are in a very small minority.
That said, is the safeguarding training free? I have seen it priced before and although it’s important to us all it is not the priority when it comes to effective financial planning in a self employed industry.
A free e-learning course could be made available or even mandatory as part of the license renewal.
Comment by mark posted on
Can DVSA look at the ineffectiveness of their link to the Ofqual website, I followed it and was so confused, it did not help at all, yet they are encouraging ADI's to train to assist abused young people.
I also agree with Angus, I read about an 81 year old former ADI who was prosecuted for alleged inappropriate behaviour, it was plastered all over his local paper, and when acquitted merely reported in page 18 of the paper. His allegations related to incidents that occurred 18 years ago. So as ADI's unfortunately, we have to protect ourselves. It means, if you were to record conversations via a Dash Cam it would require that recording must be converted every time a system becomes defunct, and kept for your lifetime.
Comment by Kev Macey posted on
totally agree with your last paragraph, Kevin
Comment by Malcolm Barlow posted on
Wear a body cam. Then both parties in the cosy car are not having to worry about each other’s intentions.
Comment by Angus McFarlane posted on
I fully understand what you say, Malcolm, and I'd be doing that if it were feasible. But the problem is data storage.
My dashcam, for example, produces about 1GB worth of footage for every 3 minutes. A typical working day would produce at least 120GB of data, and for a year it would leap to over 42TB. That's the equivalent of around 9,000 DVDs full of footage. Even transferring a single day's worth of footage from camera to PC can take half an hour or more, then there's the cost of the storage you use. It isn't feasible even then.
But as Mark said, above, accusations can go back tens of years. This is why I am concerned at the apparent encouragement to make complaints. DVSA has been sending other communications about the complaint procedures to candidates.
It is well known that people can have false memories of what happened in the past. Various traumas and emotional conditions can trigger them. Worse still is that something which was perfectly acceptable ten or more years ago - a simple off the cuff comment - might be seen in a different light today. I'm not talking about the really crass behaviour, but innocent stuff that just won't wash these days. Even the "he shouted at me" could get twisted if the thought occurs in the wrong mind at the wrong time.
Even one false accusation, and one ruined life, is one case too many.
And this needs to apply for men as well as women.