Children and young people of Leeds don’t feel safe in the city, councillors heard this week.
By Henry Whitaker and Oliver Wood
The scrutiny board put forward recommendations to improve the child-friendly nature of the city with homelessness and drug related issues being on the agenda.
Chair of the board, Councillor Alan Lamb met children from the DAZL youth service and described the experience as “striking”.
When he asked whether the children felt safe in Leeds the resounding answer he received was “no”.
Leeds Hacks spoke to a group of teenagers who said although they weren’t as concerned they could “understand why younger children are fearful of walking around the city”.
The issue of young people’s safety extends deeper with statutory social work intervention being halved from 60 per 10,000 children in 2013.
Cllr Lamb said: “We spent about an hour and a half talking to children who were part of the DAZL group in South Leeds and they were absolutely fantastic.
“One thing we are trying to do with this inquiry is to make sure we’re hearing from children and people directly.”
Progress is being made by Leeds City Council though.
A recent Ofsted’s inspection gave children’s social care services an overall effectiveness rating of ‘outstanding’.
However, there are still problems to contend with, which Director of Children and Families Steven Walker hopes to address.
“One of the other outcomes we’ve set ourselves is that children and young people in Leeds have an influence,” he said.
“Various summons and groups across the city try and capture what it is children and young people think. What it is they want and what the issues are for them. Even if at times we feel we can’t necessarily always act on them.”
The council heard that alcohol and drug use is something that can have a detrimental effect on a young person’s life.
The My School My Health survey showed that 70% of secondary school students had consumed alcohol in 2011, a figure which dropped to 48% in 2016.
The latest figures produced for 2017/18 showed a slight rise to 49% of pupils ever having had an alcoholic drink.
The general consensus is that alcohol and drug usage is falling but the fear is still there amongst the young people of Leeds.
Cllr Lamb highlighted the “prevalence and access to drugs” as a concern for the board.
The unease is something the board for families and children are tackling and Walker believes working with the children is best way forward:
“Work is being done to try and understand if and then why children are worried about something”. The concerns involve media attention, issues in their own community or a general and legitimate fear.
Walker believes it’s “very often it’s a mix of all three.”
Local councils across the country now face greater pressure to act after budget cuts were made by central government.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Executive Board Member for Children and Families said:
“We have a wider youth offer in addition to our youth services and all of these are done with a very constrained budget.
“In the past eight to nine years we’ve had 4.9bn of funding removed.”
Further discussions are set to take place up until April to create a suitable report of recommendations to be put forward to the MP’s to implement change.
Cllr Lamb told Leeds Hacks: “I’ve been on this board for most of the last 11 years and we’ve done a lot of inquiries and recommendations, the vast majority have resulted in better outcomes for young people”.