WARWICKSHIRE Police’s child protection practice has been assessed as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ in over two thirds of cases involving children at risk, in a new report.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) says Warwickshire Police ‘needs to do more to give a consistently good service for all children’, in a report laying out the findings of its inspection of the force’s child protection services which took place in February.
Inspectors examined 74 cases in which the police had identified children at risk, and rated child protection practice as ‘inadequate’ in 28 cases and ‘requiring improvement’ in 23 cases.
The report said: “In too many cases, we found inconsistent practices and decision-making. The force needs to improve some of its responses to children who need help and protection.
“It has made protecting children a priority. However, decisions about children at risk aren’t yet consistently better as a result. The force should make sure that there is appropriate and effective supervision of child protection work.”
Specific areas identified for improvement include the treatment of children detained in police custody, investigation of the online sexual exploitation of children, and responses to children missing from home or care.
The force was praised for its commitment to improving its services for children who need help and support, and to protecting vulnerable people.
It was also commended for its ‘dedicated officers and staff, often working in difficult and demanding circumstances’, while its professional relationships and contributions to multi-agency work were described as ‘a real strength’.
The report identified specific examples of good work, including effective responses to children harmed by, or at risk of, exploitation; quality child-focused investigations; and an effective partnership between police, probation officers and social workers to reduce the risk from registered sex offenders.
Responding to the report, Warwickshire Police Assistant Ch Cons Ben Smith said: “We are pleased the inspection recognised much of the good work already going on in Warwickshire.
“Many of the report’s recommendations for improvement had previously been identified by the force and we have already developed a robust action plan to address the areas identified by the inspectors.
“We have increased the resources within the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team (OCSET) to enable us to deal with the increase in online offending.
“The force has also invested significant resources in establishing dedicated child protection teams across the county, which has no doubt improved the quality of the most serious child protection investigations. We intend to increase staffing levels to allow for greater focus on trafficking and exploitation of children.
“We acknowledge there is more that we need to do to improve consistent decision-making on risks, and the quality of our missing person investigations. We have already started work to address these areas.
“We are confident we will take the learning from the latest report and use it effectively to ensure children within Warwickshire remain protected in the future.
“We are committed to investigating reports, protecting victims and bringing offenders to justice.
“Child abusers prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our community and we want to ensure they have no place to hide in Warwickshire.”
Visit http://www.somethingsnotright.co.uk for more information on recognising and reporting concerns about child exploitation and abuse.