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Leeds children at risk of sexual grooming trebles

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Child protection experts have warned the number of children at risk of being groomed in Leeds has more than trebled over the last three years.

Figures reveal 153 youngsters were believed to be at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation across the city in just 12 months.

The Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal 47 victims were identified between April 2011 and April 2012 but that figure has since rocketed.

Agencies in Leeds were working with 84 children and young people at risk of child sexual exploitation in April this year.

West Yorkshire Police have carried out 33 child sexual exploitation investigations in one year in the city.

Officers are working with child protection experts to identify the city’s grooming hotspots.

But a Leeds charity has warned it can take months for young victims who have been ensnared by grooming gangs to speak out.

Sexual exploitation charity Genesis, who run a young person’s service called Isis, has supported children as young as 12 who are at risk of falling into the hands of predators.

Child protection experts in Leeds revealed the number of children at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation has more than trebled over the last three years.

Figures show 153 children were at risk from falling into the clutches of predators between April 2013 and April 2014 - compared to 47 the previous year.

Taylor Austin-Little, senior young person’s outreach worker with the charity, said: “It can take months for a young person to lead up to a disclosure.

“It is always sad to hear there are more people at risk but it is not surprising.

“Child sexual exploitation has been high on the city’s agenda for a couple of years.”

Agencies were working with 84 children and young people across the city who were at risk of child sexual exploitation in April this year.

West Yorkshire Police carried out 33 investigations in twelve months which resulted in nine cases going to court and seven individuals being convicted.

Jane Held, independent chair of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, said chiefs would be looking at lessons from a damning report revealing more than 1,400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham.

She said: “The report by Alexis Jay into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has again highlighted the importance of agencies working closely together to ensure that vulnerable children and young people are protected from abuse.

“In recent years the Board has played a central role in supporting agencies, particularly the police and children’s social care, to develop an effective response which safeguards children and young people at risk of exploitation. As a consequence we are dealing with more cases where we have identified children who are potentially at risk.

“Leeds has an improving multi-agency response in place to protect vulnerable children and young people from child sexual exploitation. However, there is no room for complacency.

“Ensuring children and young people are safe from child sexual exploitation will remain a priority for agencies in Leeds.”

* For more information visit www.westyorkshire.police.uk/cse

 

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