HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) is encouraged by the commitment of the force to improving the quality of its child protection work. The force has increased the number of its officers and staff allocated to child protection, which has started to provide better outcomes for some vulnerable children. There is however still room for improvement in some significant areas.
HMICFRS has today published an inspection report into the child protection work carried out by Bedfordshire Police, following an inspection in July 2017. This is part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales.
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HMICFRS was pleased to find:
- the chief constable, his command team and the police and crime commissioner (PCC) share a clear commitment to child protection, and this is reflected in the police and crime plan and the force’s priorities;
- the force is conducting work to understand the scale of child sexual exploitation threats; and
- the force is making effective use of the ‘relay function’: an initiative in which schools are informed when one of their pupils has been exposed to domestic abuse incidents.
However, HMICFRS also discovered weaknesses in the force’s approach to child protection, some of which are significant:
- Our examination of missing children cases found failures to undertake prompt and effective enquiries to locate children;
- the force has an inconsistent initial response to children vulnerable to child sexual exploitation; of the cases assessed, clear warning signs were often missed, leaving some children exposed to continued risk; and
- some of the processes the force uses to record child protection concerns are not sufficiently robust to ensure that risks are identified and safeguarding interventions are made at the earliest opportunity.
A number of the force’s areas for improvement are linked to its inability to meet demand with the current level of resources within its specialist teams.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said:
“I am encouraged by the clear commitment to protecting vulnerable children demonstrated by all levels of Bedfordshire Police. Inspectors found that the force’s recent efforts to improve in this area and its focus on vulnerability are translating into positive outcomes for children in need of protection. It has reviewed its public protection structures, and invested extra resources in child protection. It has demonstrated good work in a number of areas necessary to ensure protection of children, in particular working with schools to relay details of children exposed to domestic abuse situations. The force is also carrying out notable work on the PREVENT/CONTEST strategy, to safeguard children at risk of exposure to extremism.
“The force still has work to do in some important areas, however. I would like to see the force shore up its process for protecting children who go missing, as well as doing more to prevent the unnecessary detention of children in custody. It also needs to improve how it records potential risks apparent in child protection cases, so children are consistently safeguarded at the earliest opportunity.
“I commend Bedfordshire Police for the good work it is undertaking, and have made recommendations to help the force improve where it needs to.”
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Notes to editors
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) 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 (PCC) and the public on how well children are protected and their needs are met, and to secure improvements for the future. In the last 12 months, HMICFRS has published reports on:
- 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. HMICFRS 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, HMICFRS 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.
- HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
- Information on the PREVENT/CONTEST strategy, can be accessed on GOV.UK (external link).
- For further information, HMICFRS’ press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMICFRS’ out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.