More than 80 Wakefield children at risk of sexual exploitation
More than 80 children are at risk of sexual exploitation in the Wakefield district, a senior councillor has said.
A draft safeguarding report given to elected members this week said that the number of vulnerable youngsters was 57, in March 2018.
And of these, almost half were identified as high or medium risk, while most of the children referred were white girls between the ages of 15 and 17.
However, speaking at a children and young people scrutiny committee, deputy chairwoman Kathy Scott said that figures given to councillors in recent weeks suggested that the real number was now much higher.
Coun Scott said that of particular concern was the fact that the authorities said only one child in the district was at risk of sexual exploitation in 2016.
She said: "We were in members' training a few weeks ago and we were told that the number of kids at risk was over 80. It was 85 I think.
"So that's a jump of 28 in just six months. Have the numbers gone up or is it that the way child sexual exploitation has changed?
"Two years ago we were told in this very room that there was one case in Wakefield.
"We all questioned it, but the council officers and police in the room all said there was just one."
Any child deemed to be at risk is supposed to be given a protection plan by the authorities to keep them out of danger.
Wakefield Council says it now has a team focused exclusively on tackling child sexual exploitation.
Edwina Harrison, chair of the Wakefield and District Safeguarding Children Board said: "We have to make sure that processes are geared towards children who are at risk and there’s a service to respond to them.
"Being at risk might mean they’re just vulnerable, it doesn’t mean they are definitely being exploited or that there’s evidence that exploitation is taking place.
"Part of the plan is to try and keep them busy, keep them active and keep them in school, as that minimises the risk."