Child protection in Essex is improving but there is still more to do
In September 2016, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) conducted a follow-up inspection of the child protection work carried out by Essex Police, to check on the progress made against a series of recommendations to improve practice from a previous inspection in 2015. Today’s report sets out findings from this follow-up inspection.
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Inspectors were most encouraged to find that Essex Police is firmly committed to improving child protection services, with strong leadership by the chief officer team and senior officers responsible for managing public protection. Since the 2015 inspection there has been a clear drive and focus across the whole organisation intended to achieve good outcomes for children. There has been a major investment in this vital area of policing including the introduction of extensive public protection training. Child protection is now an undoubted priority for the force and thanks to the chief constable’s personal leadership this is well understood across the organisation by all officers and staff. The chief officers have also begun to work more closely with partner agencies, such as social care and health services, to provide a better service for children in Essex.
Unsurprisingly many of these changes are still very recent, and the force is not yet able to always show that the changes are resulting in all the improvements they are designed to achieve. This will take time. HMIC found that the outcomes for children are not yet consistent: there is more to do. The force recognises this and is working extremely hard to secure those further improvements. HMIC is encouraged by the significant changes that are being introduced by the force.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said:
“Last year we reported that Essex Police had substantial improvements to make in how it protects children. After our recent follow-up inspection, I am very pleased that the force continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to improving services for children. It has taken a range of important steps to re-focus and re-prioritise activity in this vitally important area of policing.
“I am particularly encouraged by the way in which the chief constable and his chief officers have made an enormous effort to drive improvement across the whole organisation, to invest significant resources into protecting children and to prioritise the force’s response to our recommendations. The strong leadership and commitment to change is to be commended.
“The force has made a strong and public commitment to safeguarding children. The leadership has developed clearly stated priorities to tackle child abuse and exploitation, domestic abuse, urban street gangs and organised criminal groups linked to child sexual exploitation. This commitment and prioritisation needs to translate further into more consistent and effective safeguarding activity on the frontline. We found some evidence of missed safeguarding opportunities in cases of missing children, which the force accepts it needs to improve upon to ensure that risk to children is minimised.
“The force also acknowledges that its work to improve arrangements for managing sex offenders has further to go – we found that this remains inconsistent and the number of overdue checks had increased since the last inspection.
“Overall, I am very encouraged by the commitment that the force has demonstrated since last year and I recognise that many of the changes that have been recently introduced will take time to translate into consistently highly effective practices. The force continues to press ahead with reforms at pace and I am confident that it will continue on this journey having seen the impressive work already embarked on. I will continue to closely monitor the force’s progress over the coming year.”
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- HMIC is inspecting the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales. The reports are intended to provide information for the police, the police and crime commissioner and the public on how well children are protected and their needs are met, and to secure improvements for the future.
- Under the National Child Protection Inspection (NCPI) programme, HMIC will assess how effectively each force in England and Wales safeguards children and young people at risk, make recommendations to forces for improving child protection practice, highlight effective practice in child protection work and drive improvements in forces’ child protection practice.
- Follow up activity by HMIC is an integral part of the NCPI programme. It allows inspectors to assess the progress each force is making in its work to improve services for the safety and protection of children. HMIC aims to revisit each force no later than six months after the publication of the initial NCP inspection report to assess how it is managing the implementation of the recommendations.
- In July 2015, HMIC published ‘In harm’s way: the role of the police in keeping children safe’ – based on findings from 21 inspections on the police response to child protection conducted over the last two years. This incorporates inspections from the first eight forces inspected under the NCPI programme.
- HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
- For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.