A cross-party group of councillors will be formed to monitor developments in – and the local response to – child sexual exploitation (CSE).
A full meeting of Kirklees Council agreed to set up the panel after discussing a report which outlined the work of Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board and the ways that local agencies tackle CSE.
The panel will include representatives from each political group on the council and has been widely welcomed.
Its exact remit will now be developed so that councillors and officers can further improve the ways they work together, and with other local organisations, on responding to CSE.
There is a close partnership between several Kirklees agencies including the police, health services, schools, Barnardo’s and a wide range of council services such as social care, learning, licensing and youth support. All work on CSE is overseen by Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board.
The report to council explained the prevalence of CSE in Kirklees and described how it is addressed.
Numbers can vary from day to day, but there are currently 22 children and young people potentially at risk of CSE and whose circumstances are being actively managed – this means local agencies know they are at risk and are working with them, in order to protect them.
A further 45 children and young people are being monitored so that, if the risk to them increases, their cases can be escalated. Some of these cases may only have a very tentative link to CSE, perhaps a young person who is a friend of someone in the 22-strong managed group.
Cllr Jean Calvert, Cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “When the report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham was published recently, I wanted to gain a greater understanding of how things are here in Kirklees.
“At the last council meeting initial questions were raised and we agreed that it would be helpful to have a more in-depth reflection on our position today.
“The report contains a lot of detail. It paints a picture of how we have been dealing with this issue in Kirklees and how things stand at the current time.
“Our approach to CSE has been developing for several years.
“However, we know openness and honesty are essential in helping us to raise awareness of CSE, and of the risks that it can pose to children both here and nationally.
“It is vital that we all continue working together to gain a deeper understanding of this very complex issue.
“The fundamental aim of all our work is to keep children and young people as safe as possible.”
There are currently 33 potential perpetrators who are flagged on police systems and are being investigated and/or monitored, with the majority in the 20–40 age group and most under 30. All but two are male, 25 are of Asian heritage, 2 black and 6 white. Almost half are unemployed.
Since December 2012 there have been 16 sexual offences recorded in Kirklees which fit the definition of CSE. To set that in context, in 2012 there was a much larger number of 215 sexual offences recorded in Kirklees with a victim under 16.