As the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire (Local Policing Body), I am providing the following response to the Secretary of State for the Home Office, and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), in respect of the HMICFRS report ‘Warwickshire Police- National child protection inspection’ that was published on the 5 August 2022. This action is pursuant to my obligations under Section 55(1) of the Police Act 1996.
Local Policing Body’s Comments
I welcome the report and would like to convey my thanks to HMICFRS for its inspection in February 2022 of the important area of operation for Warwickshire Police. Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society and it is vital that the measures that are in place to keep them safe and work effectively.
The report rightly recognises that child protection and wider vulnerability is a priority for Warwickshire Police and that the force is committed to improving its services for children who need help and support. HMICFRS commented favourably on the force’s work with partners to keep children safe and found effective governance and scrutiny practises as part of a strong culture of protecting from harm. The inspection also found dedicated officers and staff, often working in difficult and demanding circumstances. But in too many cases, HMICFRS found inconsistent practices and decision-making and therefore made a series of recommendations: –
- We recommend that Warwickshire Police immediately reviews the OCC response to incidents where children are involved. It should make sure that the response reflects the identified level of risk, including continuing or escalating risk.
- We recommend that within three months Warwickshire Police acts to make sure that children’s concerns and views are obtained and recorded (including noting their behaviour and demeanour).
- We recommend that Warwickshire Police immediately reviews its missing persons arrangements and practices to make sure that throughout the missing episode there is always an effective response
- We recommend that, within three months, Warwickshire Police carries out a review to make sure that concerns about children are reported to statutory safeguarding partners and organisations effectively.
- We recommend that Warwickshire Police immediately improves its child protection and exploitation investigations, paying attention to:
- Allocating investigations to teams with the skills, capacity, and competence to carry them out well
- Improving the quality of oversight and supervision
- Reducing delays in investigations; and
- Sharing information with children’s social care services at the time that a risk to a child is known
- We recommend that, within six months, Warwickshire Police should improve the response to children taken into police protection. This should include making sure that, where required, opportunities to protect children are taken and all relevant information is properly recorded and readily accessible.
- We recommend that Warwickshire Police immediately acts to improve its management of registered sex offenders, paying particular attention to:
- How it monitors offenders through home visits
- How it uses reactive management processes
- How information is provided to local officers about the registered sex offenders causing concern in their area
- How it records information; and
- How the CSOD scheme is managed effectively.
- We recommend that, within six months, Warwickshire Police should carry out a review of how it manages the detention of children. The review should include, as a minimum, how best to:
- Make sure that appropriate adults attend the police station promptly
- Make sure officers fully consider the welfare of children when in custody and refer them to children’s social care services, when necessary; and
- Strengthen its working methods with local authorities to ensure that children charged and refused bail are moved to appropriate alternative accommodation and not held in custody overnight.
Improving child protection services is something that has rightly been on the agenda for some time and the force is making progress. I have provided additional resources to allow the expansion of the specialist Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team to combat the rise seen in offences facilitated by the internet, while also enabling the force to establish dedicated child protection teams across the county as part of the Child Abuse, Trafficking and Exploitation Team. This again has helped to provide additional resilience and expertise and should see greater consistency in the force’s response.
Some of the recommendations made by HMICFRS are already captured within the force’s Empower organisational change programme and its new operating model, while others will require additional activity by Warwickshire Police. It is important that the force now addresses these swiftly to provide reassurance to local communities.
Comments from the Chief Constable
I am grateful to HMICFRS for its inspection and report, it is this scrutiny which helps us not only to drive improvements but also to ensure we provide the best possible service for people – especially children – across Warwickshire.
I am also pleased that the report has recognised much of the excellent work already going on in Warwickshire and that the report acknowledges our commitment to child protection and to improving our services for vulnerable children.
There are however several areas in which we can improve as a force, and we welcome the HMICFRS recommendations. Many of these had previously been identified by the force and we have already developed a robust action plan to address the areas identified by the inspectors.
We have increased the number of resources within the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team (OCSET) to enable us to deal with the increase in online offending that we and many forces across the country are experiencing.
The force has also invested significant resources in establishing dedicated child protection teams across the county such as our Child Abuse, Trafficking and Exploitation (CATE) team. The creation of these specialist teams has no doubt improved the quality of the most serious child protection investigations. We recognise demand in CATE has been challenging which is why through our Empower organisational change plan we intend to increase staffing levels to allow for greater focus on trafficking and exploitation of children.
We recognise the opportunity we have through the scale of new officer recruitment in the last year and are working hard to ensure new recruits receive additional training so that, as a force, we have the right numbers of staff with the right skills to be able to carry out their roles effectively.
While we are pleased that the inspectors commented positively on how effectively we work with partners to keep children safe and on how effectively we use governance and scrutiny to improve our services, we acknowledge that there is more that we need to do to improve consistent decision-making on risks, and the quality of our missing person investigations. We have already started work to address these areas.
I am confident we will take the learning from the latest report and use it effectively to continue to raise awareness among our workforce so we can do everything we can to ensure children within Warwickshire remain protected in the future.
The progress made against the recommendations will be overseen through the governance of the ‘Force Assurance Board’.
Comments from the local policing body on the CC’s comments
Chief Constable Tedds is supportive of the report and the recommendations contained within and has provided her assurance that the recommendations will be implemented within the suggested timescales.
As I do in relation to all HMICFRS inspection reports, I will continue to ‘hold to account’ the Chief Constable in affecting these changes and I expect to see Warwickshire Police demonstrate the required improvements in child protection.
This response will be published on the website of the Warwickshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).
Philip Seccombe TD
Police and Crime Commissioner