Specialist unit to tackle sexual exploitation set up in Wakefield

Children in care are believed to be more at risk of sexual exploitation than their peers.
Children in care are believed to be more at risk of sexual exploitation than their peers.

A specialist unit to tackle child sexual exploitation is being set up within Wakefield Council.

The team will work with the authority's children's services, councillors were told on Wednesday afternoon.

The numbers of children going missing from care in the district have fallen.

The numbers of children going missing from care in the district have fallen.

It comes as the council's corporate parenting committee, which discusses issues around looked after children and fostering, was told that "too many" Wakefield children were going missing from care, though the number of incidents has fallen significantly during the past 18 months.

Such youngsters are believed to be more at risk from sexual exploitation than their peers.

Earlier this month, the council's corporate director for children's services, Beate Wagner, said more needed to be done to tackle the issue, as she announced changes would be made to the way missing children are interviewed after they return home.

On Wednesday, Ms Wagner said: "We are just setting up a specialist team around sexual exploitation.

Director of children's services, Beate Wagner

Director of children's services, Beate Wagner

"The people who do the return home interviews will be part of that team.

"So they will be able to look at the intelligence and the concerns around sexual exploitation.

"There have been these services before but it's fair to say that they've been a bit disjointed. We're trying to bring all of that together."

Figures show that from a peak in September 2017 of 46 incidents of children in care going missing, 10 such incidents occurred in January 2019.

The council's service manager for children in care, Dean Howson

The council's service manager for children in care, Dean Howson

The committee was told that the latest numbers are "comparatively low" against figures from other authorities and often fluctuate depending on times of year.

Dean Howson, the service manager for looked after children, said: "That's a big reduction, but still too many children in care are going missing."

Asked if he was confident that the council had sufficient capacity to deliver improvements to the way return home interviews are done, Mr Howson said: "We're confident, because the investment has been made in the service so we've been put in a position to do it, but we'll keep an eye on it."