SHOCK has been expressed after a report revealed referrals of possible child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases in Bradford have risen by more than two thirds in the past year, leading to renewed calls for a public inquiry.

Keighley mum Angela Sinfield called the news “outrageous” and said she would continue lobbying for an inquiry to be launched by Bradford Council as soon as possible, while Shipley MP Phil Davies branded the figures “shocking.”

The report from the Council’s strategic director of children’s services, Michael Jameson, will be discussed at a meeting of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee on September 6. It states that 431 cases were referred to the Bradford CSE Hub between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. That figure leapt to 713 referrals between 2015 and 2016 - a 65 per cent rise.

Mr Jameson states: “There is a continuing rise in the cases potential or actual CSE that are referred to the Hub. In the course of 2015/16 there was an average of 54 referrals per month compared to 36 per month for the previous year. Eighteen per cent of referrals to the Hub are for males. A breakdown of cases open on one day, March 29, showed that 13 per cent of cases were assessed as being at high risk.”

The Council’s chief executive Kersten England has written to bosses of a national independent inquiry into CSE to request a meeting to share knowledge. Her letter says: “We know that the challenge of CSE continues to exist in Bradford, as it does in many other places, and that the lives of our young people continue to be at risk of corrosive, often irreparable and lasting damage.”

Mr Davies said: “These figures are clearly shocking. Whether the increase is due to an actual increase in cases or just greater reporting of them is unclear, but this is clearly a massive issue in the district which needs to be dealt with robustly by the law.”

Mrs Sinfield said: “I’m going to push for an inquiry to be opened again. People can see that these figures are outrageous. I am going to the meeting on September 6 and I am also going to hand a petition for a public inquiry at the next full council meeting.”

Phil Mitchel, project co-ordinator of Blast, a Leeds and Bradford charity started in 2000 dealing specifically with male sexual exploitation said: "While I am pleased that more services are picking up signs that children may be at risk of exploitation and making referrals, I continue to be concerned that many boys are slipping through the net. People need to realise that warning signs they may see with a girl are exactly the same for a boy. Gender is irrelevant.

Superintendent Darren Minton, of West Yorkshire Police's Safeguarding Governance Unit, said:

"The rise in referrals to the Bradford District hub shows the increased awareness of police and partner agencies in recognising the signs of child sexual exploitation.

"Safeguarding children is a top priority for West Yorkshire Police and we are committed to doing everything we can to minimise the risks to children, protect them from further harm and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"Any incident where a child is identified as possibly being at risk of child sexual exploitation is referred to the Hub, where specially trained officers and other agencies can make informed decisions about the level of risk and any measures which need to be taken.

"Safeguarding children is ultimately everyone's responsibility and I would urge anyone with concerns about a potentially vulnerable child to speak to our specially trained officers."

Bradford West MP Naz Shah said she was pleased to see that people's awareness of abuse affecting children was increasing. "It wasn't many years ago that we called this child prostitution so the fact people are becoming aware and noting potential exploitation is very welcome."