Inspector still has "serious concerns" three years after criticising Northamptonshire Police over child protection
Improvements have been made but areas remain where more needs to be done for vulnerable kids
An independent inspector says there are still "concerns" over how Northamptonshire Police protects children.
Serious issues were raised by a 2018 report over managing violent and sexual offenders, the quality of child protection investigations and a significant backlog of electronic devices requiring examination causing delays.
A follow-up review in March 2019 highlighted progress had been slow although a third visit between November and December last year did recognise improvements, particularly in the way the force responded to vulnerable children reported missing from home.
But, following the latest visit late last year, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Zoë Billingham, admitted: "We still have concerns that children do not always receive the protection they need."
HMICFRS also said the force, under Chief Constable Nick Adderley, was now much better at assessing whether children were particularly vulnerable, both when answering calls from the public and in how front-line officers identify vulnerable children.
Detective Superintendent Rich Tompkinssaid today (Wednesday): "We are very pleased the many significant improvements we have made in key areas identified in the 2019 inspection are highlighted.
"Protecting children is one of the most important tasks we undertake. The leadership team is committed to a journey of improvement and to continually improve partnership working to ensure a multi-agency response in order to manage all aspects of a child’s welfare.
"That journey of improvement is set to continue and while acknowledging there are areas where we still need to raise performance, we are pleased that the Inspectorate has recognised the very significant progress that Northamptonshire Police has made in this very challenging area of work during the past two years."
READ THIS: Northamptonshire Police full response to the latest report by HM's independent inspector.
The inspectorate also said the force’s improvement plans and its restructure of senior leadership should help it make further improvements. But it added the Force had yet to:
■ Ensure that all its systems and staff were sufficiently focused on achieving better outcomes for vulnerable children.
■ Still needs to improve the service for children at every stage of contact with the police, including safeguarding and the supervision of child protection investigations.
■ Improve the supervision and management of sex offenders who breach restrictions.
Ms Billingham added: “It is vitally important that when children need help, the police are able to provide them with the best support and protection.
“I am pleased to see the progress that Northamptonshire Police has made in this area, and the force’s senior leaders are clearly committed to improving their service to vulnerable children.
"However, the force still needs to make improvements to provide consistently better outcomes for children.
“We have seen clear signs of improvement in the force’s response when children are reported missing from home. But, for example. there are still significant delays in assessing the risks posed by offenders who use the internet to abuse children.
“The force has invested in more posts and new teams to undertake this crucial area of policing. As a result, Northamptonshire Police should be better placed to work closely with other partners, like local authorities, in keeping children across the county safer.
“The force does recognise the challenges it faces and knows what it needs to do to improve. I encourage the leadership within Northamptonshire Police to continue this positive progress."
A spokesman for charity National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children said: “It’s reassuring the force shows promising progress but this report is clear there is still work to do."