Leeds child protection teams ‘will learn lessons’ from Rotherham abuse scandal

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CHILD protection bosses in Leeds have pledged to “learn the lessons of Rotherham” as they push ahead with wide-ranging measures to safeguard the city’s youngsters from potential harm and abuse.

The pledges were made at a meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board, which heard from the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board - an independent statutory body examining the work of the council and its partner agencies - which reported on the “challenges” facing the city as it seeks to help identify and deal with a range of problems affecting youngsters.

Reference was made to the wide-ranging fallout from the recent damning report into the sexual abuse and grooming of 1,400 children in Rotherham, which exposed years of failures by the local council, police and authorities, and has led to a number of high-profile resignations.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, told colleagues: “Obviously the Rotherham report has made us all make sure that we are learning any lessons that need to be learned from that very graphic and shocking set of circumstances.

“We have been working hard right across the city, right across the agencies over the last few years.

“We have been doing some very thorough reviews with senior elected members and senior officers of the council to make sure that everybody is briefed on the immediate implications of what’s coming out in Rotherham.

“But as we move through the rest of the year, we will make sure that as a city, we are responding in the way that we need to.”

He added the council was working “very carefully with the police and other agencies and councils, because that is a vital element of making sure that we keep on top of these issues”.

The YEP reported earlier this month that 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 revealed 153 youngsters were believed to be at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation across the city in just 12 months. Agencies in Leeds were working with 84 children and young people at risk of child sexual exploitation in April this year.

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

We also revealed yesterday that 431 allegations of inappropriate and criminal behaviour were made against professionals who work with children in Leeds last year.

It led to calls for the authorities to pay greater attention to youngsters who claim they are the victims of abuse, violence and sexual misconduct.

Steve Walker, the council’s deputy director of children’s services, who also chairs a special child sexual exploitation task force, said: “We will be reviewing the lessons learned for us here in Leeds. It’s important that we learn from the experiences of Rotherham.”

Councillor Stewart Golton, leader of the opposition Lib Dem group, told this week’s meeting: [Working to combat] child sexual exploitation is a joint endeavour between several agencies and it is the evolution of their relationships which is central to us feeling assurance that our children are being kept safe.”

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