Inspectors say Sussex Police making child protection a ‘top priority’
Sussex Police has prioritised keeping vulnerable children safe from harm, according to a report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
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Inspectors were impressed by the commitment of senior leaders to improving service for all children but warned that the force had more work to do.
The report notes that while Sussex Police has increased staffing in specialist child protection teams, non-specialist officers reported that they were still under significant pressures. As a result, HMICFRS found that some children at risk did not get the protection they needed.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said:
“I am reassured that senior leaders in Sussex Police have made child protection a top priority. We found that the force was making a real effort to make every member of staff aware of the risks vulnerable children face, and what they can do to help.
“That said, I do have some concerns about the service some vulnerable children get from Sussex Police. We saw that in the face of heavy workloads, officers were taking shortcuts to close some cases as quickly as possible.
“In cases where a child in care went missing, we found that officers were sometimes failing to carry out a full risk assessment. There were a couple of particularly worrying situations where children at real risk of harm, weren’t graded as high risk. This is a problem that the force needs to get a handle on straight away.
“Some cases involving indecent images of children and adults were being managed by the investigations and resolution centre, which is a telephone-based service supposed to manage low-risk and non-critical incidents. The centre didn’t pursue lines of enquiry to identify either the perpetrators, or other children who might have been affected by these offences.
“As a result of our inspection, we’ve asked the force to draw up an action plan to address our concerns. We plan on revisiting Sussex next year to see what progress has been made. I’m encouraged by the positive response we’ve already had from the senior team, and I’m confident that Sussex Police will do exactly what it needs to do to make children safer.”
This is the first time HMICFRS has inspected Sussex Police’s child protection provision. The inspectorate has made eight recommendations and will revisit the force within the next six months to assess how it is implementing them.
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- HMICFRS is inspecting the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales. The reports 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, HMICFRS 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 HMICFRS 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.
- On 19 July 2017, HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
- HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire & rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire & rescue services.
- HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also inspects all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
- For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.