REFUSE collectors across Wyre Forest are to get training to help them spot potential victims of abuse and violence during their early morning rounds.
The bin men and women who work in Kidderminster, Stourport, Bewdley and villages will get advice about how to spot children and adults in need and where to share their concerns as part of a safeguarding drive.
The new joint initiative by West Mercia Police and Wyre Forest District Council, similar to one already successfully trialled in Telford, was supported unanimously by councillors.
Councillor Fran Oborski, who put forward the motion, said refuse collectors were often the “eyes and ears” of the community in the early mornings. Training would help them understand signs to look out for that suggest neglect, violence, or drug dealing activity, among other things.
Taxi drivers, pubs workers and hotel staff across the West Mercia Police force area are already being given advice about how to spot signs of child grooming and exploitation, and what to do if they have any concerns.
It makes sense to offer this training to refuse collectors too, said Councillor Oborski.
“Frontline staff are all seen by a child as a responsible safe adult – it’s vital then that all our staff are trained to look for signs but also to give them confidence in dealing with, say, a lost child,” said Councillor Sally Chambers.
Councillors lined up to hit out at Labour group leader Nigel Knowles, who initially expressed reticence to support the motion. He suggested that what was needed more urgently was more funding for frontline staff to deal with reports of incidents. He also questioned whether staff would be reimbursed for attending training.
Emotions ran high as some councillors criticised his comments. Councillor Nicky Gale said she was “blown away” that Knowles was not immediately convinced to support the motion. “We all have a responsibility to protect our children and communities. We need to take a stand and say enough is enough. This is a very small step to help safeguard our communities.”
Councillor Tracy Onslow, who is also deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia Police, says training for taxi drivers, hotel workers and bin men was a vital tool in the work needed to protect children from “horrendous” crimes.
Refuse collectors are out every morning and may see things that others miss, so training them on what to look for and what to do if they see something untoward would be a positive step, councillors agreed.
There was also praise for the council’s friendly bin men. Councillor Helen Dyke told how her young grandson raced to wave to the bin men every week, and they always look out for him to wave back.