Wiltshire Police needs to improve child protection

Wiltshire Police needs to improve how it safeguards and protects children, according to a new report.

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Wiltshire – National child protection inspection

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that officers and staff working on child protection are committed and dedicated, and the force has recognised the risk to children from online sexual abuse and safeguards them effectively.

But the inspectorate said there are long delays in both gathering digital evidence and in accessing third-party information, both of which weaken investigations and support for children most in need.

HMICFRS also found that there is a lack of specialist trained detectives and staff, so many officers tasked with child protection investigations are inexperienced and have not been given the training they need to effectively safeguard children.

HMICFRS said specific areas for the force to improve included:

  • improving the capacity and capability of investigators and supervisors to respond effectively to vulnerability;
  • speaking to children, recording their behaviour and demeanour, listening to their concerns and views, and using that information to make decisions about their welfare;
  • reducing investigation delays;
  • supervising incidents and investigations more consistently to make sure opportunities are pursued to help children; and
  • making sure children in police detention are supported by appropriate adults and have timely access to healthcare professionals.

Earlier this year, the inspectorate moved Wiltshire Police into its enhanced monitoring process, Engage, which provides additional scrutiny and support.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

“Wiltshire Police has some areas of effective practice in child protection, and there are dedicated officers and staff who are committed to keeping children safe. But, overall, we found that the force’s child protection arrangements weren’t consistently providing a good enough response to effectively safeguard children in Wiltshire.

“The force’s response to missing children isn’t good enough. The way it assesses vulnerability isn’t always effective or comprehensive, which means some crimes, abuse and child welfare concerns are not being identified when they should be. Throughout the force, officers do not always understand the importance of speaking to children, listening to them, and recording their views to inform the assessment of their needs.

“Encouragingly, the force has recruited to the full strength that its budget allows and increased staffing levels in some teams, such as the child abuse investigation team. But it doesn’t have enough detectives or specialist trained staff in its public protection department. Many frontline staff and supervisors are very inexperienced, and cases are not effectively supervised.

“We have made a series of recommendations which, if acted on, will help improve outcomes for children in Wiltshire. We will monitor the force closely to oversee its progress.”

Get the report

Wiltshire – National child protection inspection

Notes

  1. For further information, the HMICFRS Press Office can be contacted at 07836 217 729 or HMICPressOffice@hmicfrs.gov.uk (e-mail address).