Merseyside Police committed to child protection, but backlog has ‘serious impact’ on sex offender management
Merseyside Police’s sex offender unit is failing to visit high-risk sex offenders as often as it should, according to a report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
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The policing inspectorate found that Merseyside Police had a backlog of almost 100 overdue visits to registered sex offenders. It cites heavy workloads and poor communication with neighbourhood police officers as reasons why the force is struggling to manage the risk posed by sex offenders.
The report concludes that despite showing a strong commitment to child protection and safeguarding, the inspection showed that much more work is needed to ensure consistent improvements in outcomes for vulnerable children.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said:
“I am encouraged to see that Merseyside Police is committed to doing more to keep children safe. When the force’s own case audit showed failings in how it responds to child protection incidents, it took quick and decisive action to tackle the problem head-on. This shows me that safeguarding children is a real priority for the service.
“But there is still plenty of room for improvement. At the time of our inspection, Merseyside Police’s sex offender unit was seriously overstretched. Offender managers were individually responsible for up to 100 registered sex offenders – double what we would like to see.
“This had a serious impact on the force’s ability to manage sex offenders. Too often, offender managers were playing catch-up and couldn’t prioritise preventative work. Neighbourhood policing teams were often unaware of sex offenders living in their communities. And it was particularly concerning to see that the force’s records show a backlog of 98 overdue visits to registered sex offenders.
“This is an area that requires real improvement before I can be confident that Merseyside Police is meeting its duty to keep children safe.
“That said, there were other areas where we did find evidence of good practice. The force carries out investigations to a good standard and uses police protection powers appropriately to safeguard children. I am reassured by Merseyside Police’s recent efforts to do more to make sure every child is safe from harm, and I look forward to seeing its next steps.”
Inspectors were pleased to find that Merseyside Police:
- has strong and effective partnership arrangements with the five local authorities in the force area;
- has extensive welfare support for members of the workforce dealing with child protection cases; and
- has renewed its efforts to improve the awareness of staff about vulnerability and their safeguarding responsibilities.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the force’s recording of strategy meeting outcomes and joint planning actions is inconsistent;
- there are often delays in the attendance of appropriate adults to support the overall welfare needs, rights and entitlements of detained children; and
- performance measures are currently based on the number of child protection incidents and cases, rather than outcomes for victims.
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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.