A disturbing report reveals the devastating toll domestic violence is having on families across Leeds.
Child protection officers received over 3,620 referrals in one year highlighting concerns that children were believed to be at risk from violence, according to the report by Leeds City Council’s director of Children’s Services.
The report, which was made to the council’s executive board, revealed the rate of infants entering care in the city - for a shocking catalogue of reasons - is “well above” the national average.
Parental substance misuse, domestic violence, parents suffering from mental illness and parental learning disability are just some of the key reasons for children being taken into care.
Nearly one in 50 babies born in some of the most deprived parts of the city, including areas such as Beeston and Belle Isle, were taken into care at birth or in the first few months of their lives.
And the proportion of children entering care at birth or before their fifth birthday has increased “significantly”.
Figures show that six out of 10 children starting care are under the age of five - compared to four out of ten nationally.
But council chiefs say improved joint ways of working have helped to reduce the overall number of children and young people in care in Leeds over the last two years. They claim pioneering new initiatives are helping some of the city’s most vulnerable families to stay together.
And they warn that Leeds needs to be “serious” about tackling the number of children in care as it strives to be recognised as a Child Friendly City.
Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said: “If we are serious about Leeds being recognised as a child friendly city then we have to be ready to tackle these issues head on.
“That is why we have invested in our social work workforce, strengthened our multi-agency practice on the ‘front door’ and have significantly expanded our family group conferencing services.
“This approach is already producing encouraging results and feedback from children, families and other agencies has shown us that we are achieving a dramatic turnaround in lives of families in difficult circumstances, by using this innovative approach.”
Council bosses are also drawing up new approaches to help tackle the number of children in care including specialist support for parents whose children are at risk or “on the edge” of care and an extension of domestic violence programmes.