Recent statistics from DVSA reveal a worrying rise in complaints against instructors made by students, relating to indecency, sexually inappropriate behaviour or harassment.
In 2017/2018, 150 cases of this nature were investigated by DVSA’s Counter-Fraud & Investigations Team. Year-to-date, this figure has already increased to 246, which means nearly 100 more claims being investigated than in the same period last year. Compared to 2015/16 figures (where there were only 75 cases investigated), 2018/19 already represents an increase in cases of over 200%.
As a result of complaints being investigated in this current period of reporting, action has been taken against 42 instructors, with 10 removed from the register. At present, 135 investigations are ongoing.
A DVSA spokesperson said: “DVSA takes the safety of learner drivers extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate any complaints, involving the police when necessary.
“We do not tolerate any abuse. Driving instructors found to be threatening the safety of learners will be removed from the Approved Driving Instructor register and stopped from teaching.
“To help tackle the problem we have encouraged learner drivers to report any incidents.”
In cases of insufficient evidence, ADIs are not removed from the register but warned about future conduct. 23 warnings were issued in 2018 along with reminders about the Code of Practice. While the majority of ADIs investigated were given warnings, some let their accreditation lapse and chose not to renew. Some had no further action taken against them.
The ADI Code of Conduct is clear and states that instructors should:
Avoid inappropriate physical contact with clients
Avoid the use of inappropriate language to clients
Not initiate inappropriate discussions about their own personal relationships and take care to avoid becoming involved in a client’s personal affairs or discussions about a client’s personal relationships, unless safeguarding concerns are raised
Avoid circumstances and situations which are or could be perceived to be of an inappropriate nature.
This DVSA blog helped clarify this issue in February 2018.
Carly Brookfield, CEO of the Driving Instructors Association, said: “It’s important to point out that the overwhelming majority of trainers conduct themselves in a safe and responsible manner (246 complaints equates to only 0.6% of trainers on the register).
“However, considering the latest stats, we cannot pretend as an industry that there are zero issues with instructor conduct. The rising number of complaints of this nature is a concern and it’s crucial we look at why we’re seeing this increase, and work on how we tackle these issues.
“The MeToo and similar movements have naturally encouraged more people to come forward with complaints of this nature and I would be interested to see how complaints against ADIs stack up against other professions (such as other teaching, coaching and training specialisms) where there is this regular interaction between members of the public, particularly young people, and the professional and see what we can learn from how other industries tackle such issues.”
Ms Brookfield believes issues like this are symptomatic of the lack of safeguarding training and knowledge in the industry and is calling for safeguarding education to be an integral part of the approved driving instructor qualification process (as it is in other training professions, particularly where children and young adults are the pupil) and instructor CPD.
“Every new entrant to the sector should receive safeguarding training and, like other professions have done when they've noticed a risk in their profession that isn't covered by its current qualification process, we should encourage those already qualified licence holders to undergo training in this area too.
“In defence of instructors themselves, advice and training in this area has been scant previously. We were the first organisation in the sector to not only highlight this knowledge gap, but actually do something about it in terms of providing training and guidance. Those who have been through the training have found it hugely beneficial.
“I passionately believe that instructors can actually – with appropriate training and guidance – play a powerful role in spotting, reporting and helping to stop safeguarding issues occurring – rather than us just focusing on the tiny minority as perpetrators. Trainers get to know pupils well over the course of learning to drive, and our members have shared with us that they have had pupils disclose that they are being bullied or abused in some manner by third parties (such as partners and family members) and they want to know how they can help such students without compromising their professionalism.”
Ms Brookfield believes that safeguarding training would not only protect students, but also driving instructors if they were to be more aware of the risks and protect themselves from complaints.
“We also have to be aware of the flip side to some of these investigations, where trainers have found themselves on the end of malicious complaints and false allegations of misconduct, and we have defended members against such claims. ADIs can also find themselves threatened, harrassed and even physically harmed by pupils or members of the public too. The safety of trainers, who we must remember are largely lone workers and vulnerable to harm themselves as a result, is just as important part of this discussion and we also offer advice to members on how to protect themselves’.
For further information on safeguarding, and resources to help develop your knowledge in this area please visit DIA’s website.
DIA Members can also access free webinars on safeguarding in their member's area on the DIA website.
ADIs can contact DIA's ADI Helpdesk with any concerns they have about safeguarding issues. All correspondence is treated with the strictest confidence and we are able to offer expert advice about any concerns you may have about pupils, your own welfare and safety, or should you find yourself the subject of a complaint. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02086868010 for advice.
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