Improvements in Northamptonshire Police’s child protection arrangements, but ‘still more to do’

Photo by Chameleons Eye / Rex Features.
Photo by Chameleons Eye / Rex Features.

Northamptonshire has significantly improved child protection arrangements, although there is still more to do, according to a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary released today.

Inspectors visited the county force in October 2013, following an audit in January last year that found a series of failings, including that vulnerable child offenders had been detained in cells when they should have been sent home, and another visit in June that showed improvements.

Today’s report says: “The force has largely complied with the recommendations made in the earlier HMIC child protection inspection report; although in some areas further development is still required. These have been discussed with senior officers.”

Northamptonshire Police has “made significant progress in child protection arrangements”, the report says, by working better with children’s social care, the NHS, education and probation.

But there is still work to be done, the HMIC said.

The HMIC’s immediate recommendations are:

- Place all discussions on strategy for dealing with high-risk domestic abuse cases on the force systems for future resources.

- Make sure all high-risk domestic abuse cases are discussed with Northamptonshire’s multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH).

- Make sure all cases where a child is at risk of harm are referred to the county council for a discussion with other agencies about how to protect them.

-Child protection training should be reviewed as some officers said there was too much information to take in.

-Officers attending incidents should look beyond the potential crime and consider the welfare of children involved.

Recommendations to be dealt with in six months are:

- County council information from interviews with returned missing children needs to be received by the force to help it find missing youngters.

-Children who were missing and not being dealt with by the county council need to be routinely interviewed to identify any risks they may be facing.

-Ensure social workers are taken along on vists to at risk children. This had not been happening every time as dedicated social workers from the joint team had been withdrawn.

-Continue to monitor the position with children who are detained after being charged, following improvements since January 2012.

However, HMIC said it “was pleased to find that many of the areas for improvement that were previously identified had been achieved.”

The audit did not find any 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.

The report said: “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 12 months ago.”

Zoë Billingham, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, 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.

“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.