More work needed to improve MPS child protection despite ‘encouraging progress’

“Critical improvements” to London child protection are still not being achieved nine months after a damning report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS)

Aug 14, 2017

“Critical improvements” to London child protection are still not being achieved nine months after a damning report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS). Last November, HMICFRS uncovered “indefensible” flaws in the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) approach to safeguarding children. An revisit found encouraging progress in some areas such as training and its oversight of investigations. However, the force is still experiencing delays in visiting victims – and communication between investigating officers remains poor. HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: “We have started to see some encouraging progress being made. We are aware that some actions will take time to become part of routine practice, but early signs are positive. “But we are concerned that there are other areas that are less developed, with critical improvements not making enough progress. “We will be making a full assessment of the changes that the MPS has made in our next quarterly review later this year.” The 2016 review found 75 per cent of the MPS’s child protection cases were poorly handled or required improvement. By June, the force had made “good progress” towards addressing some of these issues by appointing senior officers to oversee child protection issues. It had also established an operation dedicated to CSE, missing children and welfare safeguarding cases. In its second update, published on Thursday (August 10), HMICFRS found the MPS has further improved its scrutiny of child protection practices by appointing a commander to lead on safeguarding for children and adults. It has also implemented a new safeguarding board, introduced ‘lead practitioner’ inspectors and developed 12 portfolio work streams for superintendents and chief superintendents. Alongside these changes the MPS has adopted College of Policing guidance on missing people and is providing staff with a five-day training course that covers child welfare issues. This knowledge is being complemented by quarterly professional development days, which have so far benefitted 6,500 officers. However, HMICFRS raised concerns that this training is being developed outside normal MPS structures – meaning it could be vulnerable to inconsistent evaluation and supervision. The report claimed that unless this issue is addressed, long-term provision of the courses may not be sustainable. Internal MPS audits suggest little progress has been made in areas like communication between investigating officers and joint working with social care services. In missing person cases, officers often delayed investigations and did not meet face-to-face with the person reporting an alleged offence. Crimes were also not being recorded in line with Home Office Counting Rules. Further problems were highlighted with how information about sex offenders is being provided to local policing teams. Officers attending calls reported that they are not given this intelligence unless they specifically request additional checks before they attend a scene. Some staff may also be unclear about what information they should include in child protection plans. HMICFRS said it expects the MPS to take “prompt and effective action” to address these failings. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said: “We are pleased that HMICFRS has recognised the progress that we have made, and continue to make, to improve how we protect children in London. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done as we implement our plans and improvement processes. “The initial report, published in November 2016, had some tough messages for the Metropolitan Police. We fully accept the recommendations made and are working hard to achieve the improvements required which will take some time to fully deliver.”

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