Leeds child abuse allegations go up by a FIFTH in a year

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CHILD protection bosses in Leeds received more than 500 separate reports about alleged cases of abuse and inappropriate behaviour against vulnerable youngsters in the space of one year, a new report has revealed.

Figures from the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), an independently chaired watchdog, found that the number of notifications to the service increased by a FIFTH to 521 in 2014/15.

Eight in every 10 notifications were from agencies which have the most contact with or access to children and young people, for example teachers, foster carers and care homes.

Four in every 10 related to allegations of physical abuse and 17 per cent to inappropriate behaviour.

In 13 per cent of the cases there was enough evidence for a police investigation- and to date there have been four criminal convictions.

The numbers are laid out in the board’s annual report, which has also set the city a series of nine challenges for the coming year.

However the board found there was also good news. The city’s overall number of children and young people subject to a child protection plan - because they are considered at risk of suffering “significant harm” - has fallen by HALF since the last report.

As reported previously in the YEP, the number had increased steadily from 2009 to a level 1,171, “considerably higher” than for other Yorkshire authorities.

But a drive to reverse that disturbing rise has “helped to stabilise and then gradually reduce the number of children and young people requiring this level of statutory intervention”, the panel wrote.

At the end of 2014/15 the number stood at 641, less than neighbouring cities. The panel said this positive development “can also give an indication of the effectiveness of the system as a whole”.

For 2014/15 the LSCB had set itself 24 challenges or “high priorities” and “can report good progress on 12 of these”, according to the LSCB’s annual report.

It admits a number of areas require more and ongoing work, including improving engagement with the education sector and faith and community groups, responding to issues of radicalisation, child trafficking, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

It admits the city must work towards “a more comprehensive evaluation” of the effectiveness of some of its services, especially those for youngsters at risk of sexual exploitation, and those who are disabled or have complex needs. 

The report noted that there has been a “significant increase” in the number of referrals relating to children and young people who are experiencing or at risk of being sexually exploited.

However it concluded that: “External inspection confirmed that this was more likely to represent an increased awareness of the nature and scale of the abuse rather than an increase in victimisation.”

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