'Protecting Northamptonshire's children is one of our most important tasks and we are committed to improvement,' say police
County force highlights significant progress with more officers and better training following inspector's report
Northamptonshire Police has welcomed the latest independent inspector's report into how the Force handles child protection cases.
Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabularies and Fire Services, Zoe Billingham, followed up her critical findings from 2018 by recognising major improvements while still highlighting some areas of concern.
Detective Superintendent Rich Tompkins said today: "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."
Among the findings revealed in today's report, inspectors applauded Northamptonshire Police has got “better at recognising risk to children and taking action to protect them.”
It also references the significant amount of internal messaging and training which has been undertaken by the Force over the past two years to improve awareness of child vulnerability.
A spokesman added: "We are pleased this is reflected in the report, with inspectors noting our frontline officers have a “good understanding of when police protection should be used.
"Where officers attend complex and challenging incidents, they are not distracted from their responsibility to prioritise children’s safety.
"There were good records showing officers taking time to engage with the children. Officers were clearly following their training and capturing the voice of the child.
"Records showed children’s views being considered by both response and specialist investigators officers throughout their investigations.”
The report also highlights several improvements in the following areas:
■ The Force has invested considerable time into improving the frontline response to missing children and has invested considerable effort into improving in this area. The report acknowledges the frontline response to missing children is now “excellent” with a 25% reduction in time taken to locate missing children. The report cites the force control room as good at identifying risk and acknowledges the significant progress made in flagging incidents and the trigger plans being in place for the most frequent missing persons.
■ A positive initiative introduced by the Force called the Multi Agency Daily Risk Assessment (MADRA), established in April 2020 in response to a correct perception that Domestic Abuse (DA) would increase due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. The aim was to strengthen child safeguarding by introducing a process to review DA cases where children were impacted.
■ Resources are being provided to reduce crime and vulnerability across the board, including the new Prevention and Intervention Command and the Early Help Hub: “The Force has reviewed and restructured investigative capability to better support victims,” the report adds.
■ There has been improved training and investment in detectives.
Other concerns raised over the management of sexual or violent offerenders and the Paedophile Online Investigation team have either been addressed or improvements are being expedited.
CLICK HERE to read the inspector's full report
The report suggests high workload and lack of research and capacity has caused delays in investigations.
A spokesman added: "We are confident these concerns are being addressed.
"Supervisory capacity of the MOSOVO team has been strengthened and a new action plan is in place with the support of Integrated Offender Manager team officers within a new Prevention and Intervention structure.
"Officers are currently being recruited into the MOSOVO team as a result of the Force identifying capacity issues.
"References to staff in the unit being insufficiently focused on safeguarding is disappointing.
"There are numerous examples where the team have responded quickly to safeguarding concerns and carried out thorough investigations to protect the public and children.
"The Covid-19 pandemic and associated rise in online activity including exploitation and the prevalence of online indecent imagery of children is recognised nationally with many forces accepting capacity is an issue.
"Legacy issues plus a 70 per cent increase in demand during the past 12 months have compounded issues. POLIT officers now have an average workload of 31 cases, the highest of any investigative team in the force."