THE new director of children’s services at one of the region’s largest councils has pledged to tackle child abuse blighting rural communities through a more co-ordinated approach with law-enforcement agencies.
Pete Dwyer, who has been appointed as the head of the directorate at North Yorkshire County Council, admitted abuse against children was prevalent in often isolated communities and difficult to detect, but stressed he will be focusing heavily on tackling the problem.
He told the Yorkshire Post that while the council is facing up to intense pressures amid funding cuts from Westminster, the safety of children should not be jeopardised in any efficiency drives.
Mr Dwyer, who has taken up his new post after six years as the director of children’s services at York Council, said: “The abuse and neglect of children can affect all communities, and like poverty, it is often an issue that may be hidden in more rural areas.
“It may be more prevalent in more disadvantaged communities, but child abuse is something we are committed to tackling. But it is not solely about detection, as it is also about prevention and ensuring that any potential risks are identified and dealt with.”
The council, which is looking after 490 youngsters in care, launched a three-year review of its children’s services in 2010 to counter reductions in government funding.
The authority, which has an annual social care budget of £33m, is having to enforce a total of £93m in cuts across all its services by 2014/15.
An overhaul of a network of children’s centres in North Yorkshire has slashed bureaucracy while preserving frontline care.
The centres are seen as vital to providing a link to remote communities across England’s largest county.
Mr Dwyer confirmed he will build on relationships with NHS officials and police officers which he forged during his work with York Council to ensure there is a co-ordinated approach to dealing with major issues such as child abuse.
“We do need to ensure there is close partnership working, and we are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to deal with issues.
“But it would be wrong to say that the physical and sexual abuse of children has gone away, and we will be doing all we can to prevent it.”