HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has today published the report of inspection, carried out in July 2016, of the child protection work undertaken by Cumbria Constabulary. These inspections are part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales.
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Inspectors were pleased to find:
- a clear commitment to improving services for children in need of protection;
- the significant investment being made by the constabulary to improve staff awareness and enable force leaders to assess and improve the quality of decision making;
- staff responsible for managing child abuse investigations were committed and dedicated to providing the best possible outcomes for children;
- officers responded quickly and undertook thorough initial enquires about the immediate safety of children; and
- good relationships with local authorities and other partner agencies, and full engagement with the work to develop better provision for children with mental health issues.
However, inspectors were concerned to find:
- the constabulary is not as involved as it should be in the initial partnership assessment and prioritisation of risks to vulnerable children. As a consequence, the police are generally not contributing at the earliest opportunity to the development of longer term protective plans for children who have been identified as being at risk;
- a lack of understanding of the extent of child sexual exploitation and an inconsistent response across the force area;
- the protection of some children who regularly go missing from home was inconsistent. Although the initial response to locate the child is often good, early intervention and long-term inter-agency planning is often ineffective;
- in some serious cases that were allocated to non-specialist teams, enquiries and investigations were undertaken by insufficiently skilled and knowledgeable staff; and
- although there has been a significant reduction in the number of children being unnecessarily detained in police custody, the transfer of children to appropriate alternative accommodation in those small number of cases where bail is not appropriate, remains problematic.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham said:
“I am pleased that Cumbria Constabulary has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving services for children in need of protection. It is encouraging that progress is being made to improve staff awareness in relation to vulnerability and wider safeguarding issues.
“It is positive that there is a constabulary-wide focus on safeguarding and working to improve outcomes for children. We found that the constabulary is taking steps to improve co-ordination and development of its approach to Child Sexual Exploitation.
“Inspectors found some good individual examples of the constabulary protecting children who were most in need of help, with good multi-agency work and a child-centred approach, which effectively combines investigative and safeguarding approaches. There is also clear evidence of strategic leadership and direction.
“Despite this commitment, I was concerned to find that children didn’t receive a consistent service. The constabulary needs to do more to improve how it protects children at most risk of harm.
“With regards to children who regularly go missing from home, there needs to be greater focus on early intervention and ensuring that officers and staff understand the link between children who regularly go missing and sexual exploitation.
“Cumbria Constabulary still has more to do to demonstrate that it is effectively able to identify and safeguard children at risk of sexual exploitation. I will continue to monitor the progress the constabulary makes, and expect to see improvements.”
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- HMIC is inspecting the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales. The reports are intended to 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, HMIC 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 HMIC 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. HMIC aims to revisit each force no later than six months after the publication of the initial NCP inspection report to assess how it is managing the implementation of the recommendations.
- In July 2015, HMIC published ‘In harm’s way: the role of the police in keeping children safe’ – based on findings from 21 inspections on the police response to child protection conducted over the last two years. This incorporates inspections from the first eight forces inspected under the NCPI programme.
- HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
- For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.