Lincolnshire Police is improving its child protection work, though some challenges remain
Lincolnshire Police has improved how it protects and safeguards vulnerable children, according to a new report. However, some remaining issues mean that the force is not as effective as it could be.
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As part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) previously assessed Lincolnshire Police in 2018.
Although that inspection revealed that the force was committed to child protection work, and was generally performing to a high standard, it also highlighted some problems, especially with regards to processes around operational decision making.
HMICFRS subsequently carried out a post-inspection review late last year, which determined that the force has made strong improvements since the 2018 inspection. Many of these improvements stem from the force’s restructuring of its child protection services, which included setting up new protecting vulnerable persons units (PVPUs).
The Inspectorate determined that this restructuring has had a positive impact on capability. It has meant that workloads are distributed more equally amongst officers and staff, improved resource flexibility and allowed for more rapid deployment of specially trained officers.
Today’s report also identified other improvements, including:
- improved risk assessment procedures for at-risk children, such as those who go missing from home;
- better offender management, including in relation to registered sex offenders; and
- comprehensive training for officers and staff working on child protection matters.
However, the Inspectorate noted that there are still some problems. A relatively high number of absences in the new PVPUs are an area of concern, which threatens to undermine certain aspects of their effectiveness. The supervision and standard of investigations remains inconsistent and performance evaluation procedures – which allow the force to measure the success of its child protection strategies – are not yet developed enough.
“It is crucial that all police forces are able to identify and protect vulnerable children. If done correctly, the police can intervene at an early stage and protect that child from harm.
“Although our post-inspection review of Lincolnshire Police revealed that there are still some areas of concern, I am encouraged by the progress the force has made since our last inspection.
“The force has carried out a significant restructuring of its child protection and vulnerability capabilities, which has resulted in improvements. For example, merging smaller teams, dealing with specific types of vulnerability, into larger teams should increase specialist staff availability. Additional staff training, particularly with call takers, has helped to avoid significant delays when responding to vulnerable children.
“Lincolnshire Police has improved its partnership working with other agencies, which has led to prompt and effective information sharing. The force now meets regularly with children’s social care at both strategic and operational levels. This has improved decision making, and has allowed the force to challenge some decisions if necessary.
“My remaining concerns relate mainly to the standard of investigations. Of the 13 case files we audited, we classified seven as inadequate. We classified six as requiring improvement, which meant that none were ‘good’. Because of these concerns, we intend to revisit the force to check on progress.
“These concerns notwithstanding, senior leaders, staff and officers working for Lincolnshire Police are clearly committed to protecting children from harm. I look forward to returning to the force to see how it implements our recommendations.”
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- HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services.
- HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also publishes data and thematic reports on areas of particular interest.
- Since 2017, HMICFRS been responsible for inspecting all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
- 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.
- For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted from 9.00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 07836 217729.
- HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.