Thames Valley Police must do more to protect vulnerable people, says HMICFRS

Thames Valley Police has emphasised its commitment to protecting its communities after its latest PEEL (Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy) report was published.

Dec 6, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Picture: Thames Valley Police

The report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services (HMICFRS) said the force communicates well with the public, but it needs to do more to protect vulnerable people

Across eight areas of policing, the inspectorate found the force was good in one area, adequate in two areas, requires improvement in four areas and inadequate in one area.

HMICFRS said the force makes good use of stop and search to prevent and detect crime and is involving community members in the scrutiny of how it uses police powers.

However, the inspectorate said the force needs to improve how it works with partner organisations to assess and manage risks to vulnerable people, including making sure that risk assessments are detailed enough and dealt with promptly.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said: “I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Thames Valley Police in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service. But there are areas in which the force needs to improve.

“The force has nine multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASH) due to the size of the force area, and I am concerned about some of the processes within these hubs. It needs to make sure it has effective and consistent processes in place to protect vulnerable victims and share information promptly with other safeguarding agencies.

“The force had a change in leadership in the six months leading up to our inspection, and the new team has a clear purpose that it has communicated well, which focuses on building trust, serving victims, fighting crime and valuing the workforce.

“I am pleased with the way the team has responded to my concerns. The force has already taken steps to make improvements, and I will be monitoring progress closely.”

HMICFRS noted its satisfaction with the force’s performance in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service.

The report highlighted that the force’s officers understand the importance of appropriate behaviours and demonstrate effective communication with the public and is involving community members in the scrutiny of how it uses police powers.

Chief Constable Jason Hogg said: “I am pleased the report has recognised our commitment to protecting our communities and serving victims.  It acknowledges improvements in many areas made since our last inspection, such as a significant decrease in homicide, recognised by the Home Office as a positive example of tackling the deaths of young men on our streets.

“It also references our work on domestic abuse and the success of our specialist operations to safeguard victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and reducing the risk of reoffending by registered sex offenders.

“In the last six months, we have responded to more than half a million contacts from the public and attended 81,143 incidents, which represents an incredible demand on our 8,400 officers, staff and volunteers. We have an incredibly committed workforce who protect our communities 24-7. They are often working in highly complex and demanding circumstances, and I would like to thank them for all they do.”

The report tasked Thames Valley Police with taking action to protect vulnerable people.

Earlier this year, and in response to early findings in the report, the force said it took “immediate steps” to increase staffing levels in its safeguarding teams, including doubling its senior team to support its focus on protecting vulnerable people.

“Referrals to partners about vulnerable people are now sent within appropriate timescales, and queues in the force’s multi-agency safeguarding hubs have now been cleared,” said Thames Valley Police. “The HMICFRS report notes the Inspectorate is pleased with improvements made since the inspection.”

Mr Hogg added: “We have an incredibly committed workforce who came into policing to protect people from harm and protecting vulnerable people is at the core of what we do.

“We take safeguarding extremely seriously and have been working closely with HMICFRS since their inspection to make sure we have rigorous processes in place to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We have already made significant improvements and are confident our new approach is making a difference.”

Thames Valley police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber said: “I take the findings from this inspection extremely seriously.

“There are a number of areas for improvement highlighted in the report including those relating to the management of risks to vulnerable people.

“It’s vital that the residents of the Thames Valley feel confident that the force are able to act quickly and have effective processes in place to protect vulnerable people from harm.

“From regular communication with the chief constable I know that actions have already been implemented since this inspection, including increasing staffing levels within safeguarding teams, which are addressing the issues highlighted. I will continue to monitor this to ensure that sustainable systems and effective processes are in place which are better placed to respond to demand.

“There are many areas of good practice cited within the report including how Thames Valley Police uses its police powers, its fair treatment of people and communication with the public.

“However, there is more that needs to be done to improve service delivery for Thames Valley communities. I will assess the recommendations from His Majesty’s Inspectorate alongside the chief constable and monitor appropriate actions through my ongoing scrutiny to drive forward the improvements that are needed.”

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