Northamptonshire Police has made ‘significant progress’ in improving its child protection arrangements, according to the Government’s policing watchdog.
In a report published today, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) said: “Many of the areas for improvement that HMIC identified in its earlier report have been achieved. There are some areas where further work is required but the force is committed to addressing these.
“The main findings are that the force has made a significant investment in its response to child protection by working with its partners in other agencies to develop a true multi-agency child protection approach for Northamptonshire.
“This includes deploying additional specialist resources, providing development time for senior leadership within the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit and providing training for specialist and front-line officers and changing working practices.
“Although the force still has work to do, particularly in the delivery of training to front-line staff, children are now made safer due to the efforts of members of Northamptonshire Police.”
Chief Constable Adrian Lee said: “Northamptonshire is a leader in this field by having staff from children’s social care, health, education and probation working together in the same office. This means they can share information and discuss cases promptly and fully.
“We have made a significant investment in improving child protection. We have put more into specialist teams and training. Working practices have changed and improved and more detailed information is passed to partner agencies.
“Senior leaders have been given time to develop and improve their understanding of child protection and a programme of training, focused on children, is being delivered to front-line staff to increase their knowledge and understanding. As a result of this and awareness rising across the force the number and quality of child protection referrals has increased.
“All these improvements mean that children are now better protected by the police than they were at the time of the initial inspection in January 2013. HMIC will re-inspect the force during 2014 as part of the current national programme of child protection inspections.”
Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds, said: “I welcome this report. It is a fair assessment of where we are. It recognises that much needed improvement is being achieved. A lot of people have worked very hard to make those improvements happen but more remains to be done.
“The report does advise on what those things are and I want to see that work continue to happen so that we can be assured that all children in Northamptonshire are as safe as they can possibly be.”
In January 2013, HMIC identified failings in Northamptonshire Police’s child protection arrangements following a multi-agency pilot inspection. HMIC visited the force in March 2013 and again in June 2013 to check on its progress in responding to our recommendations.
In October 2013, HMIC conducted a further follow-up inspection and was pleased to find that many of the areas for improvement that were previously identified had been achieved. During the course of the inspection activity HMIC inspectors did not identify cases where children were exposed to significant harm due to omissions by Northamptonshire Police. The force has also invested in additional resources and training for specialist child protection teams.
Although the force still has work to do, HMIC has concluded that Northamptonshire children are now made safer due to the efforts of Northamptonshire Police than when the force was inspected twelve months ago.
HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, Zoë Billingham, said: “Our inspection of Northamptonshire Police in early 2013 gave us significant concern about how the force was protecting children in the county. We have regularly re-inspected the force since then to ensure progress has been made against our recommendations. We have now seen a real improvement.
“Our most recent inspection in October 2013 confirmed that the force has made significant progress, and as a result children in Northamptonshire are better protected from harm than previously.
“The force recognises that it still has more work to do. It should continue to focus on improving its child protection arrangements, but it deserves credit for the positive changes it has made. We are pleased to see that the force has further improvements planned. HMIC will continue to monitor its progress.”
HMIC will re-inspect the force during 2014 as part of the planned national programme of child protection inspections.