A conference aimed at frontline workers on Safeguarding Young People with Learning Disabilities at risk of Child Sexual Abuse takes place today (27 Jun 2016)

Organised by West Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, the event will focus on raising awareness of the risks to children and young persons with learning disabilities, how they can be safeguarded and what can be done in the future to make sure they are even safer.

It follows a report Unprotected:Overprotected, commissioned by Comic Relief and co-authored by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), The Children's Society, Barnardo's, Coventry University, and Paradigm Research, that looks at how to increase understanding around the sexual exploitation of children and young people with learning disabilities.

Report recommendations include getting local agencies to take an active role in raising awareness of CSE, and focusing campaigns on young people with learning disabilities.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: "Any young person who has been a victim or a witness of sexual exploitation should have the confidence to come forward, trust that their voice will be heard and be justified in believing that the responsible authorities will make sure they and others are kept safe.

"This conference will help frontline practitioners to share knowledge and experience and further strengthen how we work together to prevent abuse, protect those most at risk and prosecute those who offend. This will continue our vital work to keep our communities safer and feel safer.

"This conference is only part of a number of initiatives and joint working ongoing across West Yorkshire which the Safeguarding Adviser I appointed is leading on with partners.

"I have also provided funding from my Partnership Executive Group to continue our work in schools around raising awareness of CSE. Conferences such as this one today (MON) are crucial in ensuring we work together to do all we can to protect those most at risk in whatever setting."

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster of West Yorkshire Police, said: "Detecting and preventing sexual abuse, particularly of children, is a key focus for West Yorkshire Police and has been now for some time. 

"Young people with disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable people in our County and it is important we do all we can to protect them from harm.

"The force has dedicated safeguarding units staffed by specialist officers and any opportunity to broaden our knowledge base as an organisation and share best practice is something we wholeheartedly welcome.

"This conference can also only help to strengthen the close working relationships our officers already have with partners from other agencies to help us all safeguard young people."

The event, hosted by the Kirklees Children Safeguarding Board, takes place at the Hudawi Centre, in Huddersfield, with representatives from all five West Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Boards, police safeguarding officers and partner agencies including Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE), the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), The Children's Society and Barnardo's.

Rob Jackson, Yorkshire Area Director for The Children's Society, said: "We know from our work with vulnerable children and young people affected by child sexual exploitation in West Yorkshire that those with learning difficulties can be particularly vulnerable to being groomed and abused.

"The Unprotected, Overprotected report we co-authored last year revealed a lack of awareness about these risks, a lack of specialist support and a misguided perception that children with learning difficulties do not need sex and relationships education.

"It also called for more training for professionals and more cooperation between different agencies and highlighted the need to raise awareness of the issue.

"While an event like this can help to progress these things, there is much to be done and we must all put the views of these vulnerable children at the heart of our learning."

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019