The number of boys at risk from being sexually exploited in Kirklees is rising, councillors have been told.

The total number of boys and girls currently considered at risk is 73, a rise which may be linked to greater awareness and improved services.

A meeting of the council heard calls for an independent inquiry into historic child abuse in Kirklees as councillors debated the authority’s role in tackling abuse in the light of scandals in Rotherham and elsewhere.

Councillor Erin Hill, Cabinet member for Family Support and Child Protection, said a Dewsbury-based team of police and social workers was developing a ‘mapping’ strategy to help understand the relationship between young people and perpetrators.

Clr. Erin Hill - Kirklees Council Cabinet Member - Family Support & Child Protection.

A new detective sergeant joined the team in May to focus on the ‘mapping’ exercise which would aim to identify the locations where young people might be targeted by would-be abusers.

Clr Hill said the number of at-risk referrals for child sexual abuse was up and the authorities were dealing with more boys who had been identified as being at risk from grooming.

“It is notoriously under-reported,” said Clr Hill.

“Perpetrators are finding new ways to hide and young people are sometimes too scared to come forward.”

She said the Dewsbury hub was also dealing with issues around forced marriage and human trafficking.

The meeting was told ‘collaborative working’ between agencies had led to Operation Tendersea, the arrest of 43 alleged perpetrators of historical child sexual abuse in Kirklees.

Clr Hill said work in schools was vital.

In October, 10 local secondary schools will host a performance of Chelsea’s Choice about the impact of sexual abuse. It is anticipated more victims may come forward having seen the play.

Clr Hill added: “I think we have to be open that child sexual exploitation does happen in Kirklees. I don’t think we can ever stand still as perpetrators are always going to change their methods.”

Clr Nigel Patrick called for an independent inquiry into why police and the council had previously failed to act on local child abuse

Kirklees Council Conservative member Nigel Patrick.

He said: “People who have been affected will see the police and council as the people that let them down. I think what is needed is an independent inquiry along the lines of (Professor Alexis) Jay or (Louise) Casey to find out what went wrong, to find out why these people were not helped in the past.”

Clr Musarrat Khan said that the rising number of cases locally could be seen as a measure of success in identifying new victims.