Inspectors warn Northamptonshire Police to improve child protection practice
Northamptonshire Police’s efforts to improve its child protection provision have not yet translated into better outcomes for vulnerable children, according to a report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
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Inspectors found evidence of some good work by individual officers, but warned that poor management of registered sex offenders and inaccurate risk assessments were putting vulnerable children at risk.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said:
“Northamptonshire Police shows a clear commitment to keeping children safe from harm, taking a proactive approach to safeguard children from further harm and bring offenders to justice.
“But our inspection also uncovered some areas of serious concern. The force’s management of registered sex offenders was particularly troubling. At the time of inspection, the force’s specialist team was significantly under-resourced and overworked. Police officers were expected to manage caseloads well above nationally-approved guidelines.
“Although the force attends the highest priority cases in good time, we were disappointed to find that call handlers often downgraded crimes involving children – some as serious as domestic abuse – to ease demand upon their response teams. A riskbased approach should prioritise help for those who need it most, so the most vulnerable can be safeguarded in hours, not days.
“When incidents were identified as child protection cases, officers responded accordingly and handled them well. We found that they used their powers to remove children from harm’s way with due care and consideration for the child’s best interest.
“We have made a number of recommendations to the force to improve their practice in this area. Under the strong leadership of the Chief Constable and his senior team, I am reassured that the force has already taken immediate steps to address our concerns, which is positive and reflects the force’s overall commitment to improving outcomes for children.”
Inspectors were pleased to find that Northamptonshire Police:
- is unquestionably committed to the protection of children; and
- has invested in safeguarding training for frontline officers and staff.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- joint visits between child protection officers and social services are either not recorded or do not take place;
- multi-agency risk assessment conferences are well-attended, but do not always result in strong decision making and action; and
- missing children investigations are generally of poor quality when allocated to non-specialist uniformed officers, leaving some children exposed to unacceptable levels of risk over a protracted period of time.
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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.