Gang violence impact on children in Leeds needs more focus, councillor claims

Gang violence’s impact on children in Leeds is an issue that needs more focus from the council, a politician has claimed.

Children's susceptibility to gang violence should be measured by Leeds City Council, a councillor has claimed.

Conservative councillor Dan Cohen (Alwoodley) told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s children’s scrutiny board that council officers need to make clear what work is being done to keep children away from gang-related violence.

The comments came during a discussion on a report into children’s services, which claimed the number of children needed to be looked after in the city was decreasing.

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Coun Cohen said: “We ought to focus on the context of whether the children are safe from crime and gang violence.

Children's susceptibility to gang violence should be measured by Leeds City Council, a councillor has claimed.

“It is very much in the news at the moment, but it’s been an issue at the forefront from some years, tragically, in Leeds.

“When we talk about harm, we talk about all children being safe from harm. When we talk about a child-friendly city in its wider context, I wonder whether it should be something we ought to have picked up and looked at.”

The comments follow the sentencing last month of a 17-year-old boy for his part in a shooting in Chapeltown last year.

The council’s director of children’s services Steve Walker responded by claiming that it would be difficult for the council to produce figures and targets around this.

He added: “We do not have the extent of the gang problem seen in London, Manchester and other cities. I think there is a challenge, and it is something I am happy to look at, to think about how we capture some of the perceptions of the children and how they feel in the city.

“Whether we are keeping children safe in their community crosses over into aspects of health and community safety. We would not ignore it, but to put it all together is something I would be concerned would be a disproportionate amount of work for an outcome.”

“One of the things we’ve tried not to do is put down anything that can be construed as a target. If you have a target, people will chase the target, and that will have an effect that you wouldn’t necessarily want.”