'Dangerous' taxi driver shortage leaves vulnerable walking home late at night

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

There are fears a shortage of taxi drivers is leaving people in "dangerous" situations - with teenagers, cancer patients and adults with learning disabilities just some of the people experiencing issues.

North Somerset Council has lost a third of its licensed drivers - 150 in total - since the beginning of 2020.

It means that on a weekly bases, Julie Williams - who runs a social club for adults with learning disabilities at the Friends Meeting House in Weston-super-Mare - is struggling to get people home safely.

She says she is having to chase pre-booked taxis, drive members back herself or, in worst case scenarios, have people walk home from the social club alone at night.

"They're adults with a child-like kind of background," she said. "You wouldn't leave little 11-year-old child stranded in the town centre."

She added: "One lady had to walk the distance home - luckily that distance was within 10 minutes of the club, and we made her home fully aware of the fact that she was now wanting to try to walk home."

Julie says she feels resigned to the fact drivers cannot keep up with demand.

"I can't see changing, possibly for at least another year, unless companies can pull back drivers," she said.

Without a taxi to take them home, Julie says her group members will feel abandoned and unsafe. Credit: Julie Williams

It is also affecting parents trying to book taxis home for their children.

Emily Harris is a single mum and struggles to get her son Jerome picked up at the end of his shifts at a fast food restaurant.

Emily says she has tried on several occasions to pre-book but struggles.

She told ITV News it "could be dangerous" for the 16-year-old being out on his own at 11.45pm.

After supporting her mum, Clare now operates a taxi service which specialises in helping people with accessibility needs. Credit: Clare Filer

Clare Filer, from Clevedon, also had real difficulties ensuring her mum was able to get to hospital appointments during her cancer and kidney dialysis treatment.

She said although she found some "fantastic" taxi drivers, they were not always available - adding: "[It] caused me quite a bit of stress worrying about who was going to be the transport the next time I booked."

Because of these difficulties, Clare made a career swap to become a taxi driver herself when her 30-year job at Debenhams came to an end. She now specialises in helping vulnerable people.

Taxi driver Adam Flagan says there's a lot of demand on them right now Credit: ITV News

Adam Flagan runs private hire firm Go Cars and says it is fat out "working at full capacity".

He said lots of drivers left the industry during the pandemic because "they have families to support" and "quite high insurances premiums to pay".

North Somerset Council has seen fewer people coming forward to become taxi drivers.

Councillor Mark Canniford, who is in on the executive board for placemaking and economy said there "simply aren't enough people wanting to do that job any longer".

Despite the demand for drivers, the application process has not changed and full background checks for potential drivers including a HGV Group 2 standard medical fitness fit, a fully enhanced DBS check and a local area knowledge test are still mandatory.

Sioux Isherwood, who is a licensing officer for North Somerset Council, also confirmed a local taxi operator has offered the use of a dedicated taxi to be “booked” by paramedics and police to take home vulnerable people, take medical crew to incidents or take customers with minor medical situations to local hospitals.