Safeguarding Children Week takes place from 17th to the 23rd October. The event, run by Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Adult Safeguarding Boards, aims to showcase the work that goes into keeping children from harm.
The Leeds Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) raises awareness of issues around the well-being and safety of children within families, communities and neighborhoods. The board reports on child deaths and sexual exploitation. Safeguarding Children Week foregrounds that work.
Report highlights sexual exploitation
In 2015, the Leeds Police Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) team were involved with 63 investigations. Thirteen adult men were prosecuted with the victim being a 13 year old female. Another male was imprisoned for seven years for offences against three victims.
The report suggests that between 2014/2015 there was an increase in the number of cases involving children aged between 11-13. Young people aged between 14-15 account for over 50%. As a result, data is collected and analysed through the age groups and locations of victims. For example, a child aged 14 in a known ‘hot-spot’ of sexual exploitation activity will be seen as high risk.
According to the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health, the UK has a higher child death rate than much of Europe. The LSCB report states that child deaths in Leeds since 2008 declined, until the increase from 2015:
“There has been a marked increase in the latest year (from 41 to 61 deaths) comprising both neonatal and older children’s deaths. This kind of fluctuation from year to year is difficult to interpret because the overall numbers are small, so it is not possible to comment on the trend.”
One of the leading causes of neonatal death which the LSCB sees as an amendable change is smoking. It is stated that smoking whilst pregnant contributes to nearly a quarter of all neonatal deaths:
“Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications. Premature delivery, infants born with a low birth‐weight, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome.”
Leeds, the current level of smoking by mothers at delivery is 9%. However, “rates are known to be higher among more disadvantaged groups and among teenage mothers.”
The Royal College of Psychiatrists say that postnatal depression affects between 10-15 every 100 women. The college says that it is rare that a parent will harm their baby, but it is a constant worry that they will.
I spoke to Alice*, a mother of two young boys. When her first son was born, she was diagnosed with postnatal depression (PND):
“My PND made it really difficult to look after Sam* for the months after he was born. I didn’t want to play with him, feed him, bathe him. I couldn’t help this overwhelming feeling of not caring. Every time he cried I wanted to ignore him.”
On a daily basis, Alice refused to breast-feed Sam. Often, he was fed by a formula milk by her husband.
“I could see he despaired with me, but he understood that not loving my son was not my decision, it was my depression’s. It’s a difficult thing to fight against your own mind everyday.”
The NSPCC has reported that 73% of maternity services do not have a specialized mental health nurse. The LSCB state that this can only increase the risk to children of physical harm in the forms of ‘lashing out’ and ‘undiagnosed illnesses’.
How is Leeds safeguarding children?
Teresa Smith, Community Specialist Practitioner in Health Visiting, believes that to decrease the risks, there needs to be more awareness:
“The biggest struggles I see on an everyday basis are social isolation, breast feeding issues and anxiety over a child. Parents who deal with these struggles will be more likely to use physical harm or neglect.
”I advise parents who have these struggles to attend baby groups for new mums to socialize and regular visits made by the same practitioner as well as education.
”If a parent is honest about their struggles, it makes it easier to find a solution through education rather than keep a problem under wraps and let it escalate.”
In 2013, the LSCB created ‘Student LSCB’ to create a young persons’ perspective to the board.
In 2014, the campaign ‘Who are you really talking to?’ was released in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police. The campaign was to raise awareness of the dangers of social media and protect against online grooming.
In 2015, the Student LSCB released the ‘think before you send’ campaign:
“The aim of the “think before you send” campaign is to inform under 18’s of the negative impact that either requesting or sharing sexual images can have on their lives and their futures.”
If you are concerned about a child; please call 0113 222 4403
*The interviewee’s name has been changed in order to protect the anonymity of the mother and child