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Staffordshire must ‘urgently’ improve on missing children cases

HMICFRS review says identifying risk with missing children cases ‘takes too long’

The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said the force’s response to missing children is “confused and ineffective” and at times does not have the right procedures in place to find high-risk missing children.

“In some cases, the force takes far too long to recognise the risk and respond in the right way,” it said.

Inspectors also found the force does not “clearly prioritise the safeguarding of children in all investigative activity”.

In a separate report last month HMICFRS ordered the force to improve performance or face 'escalation' after serious concerns were raised over call handling and crime investigations among other concerns, 

HM Inspectorate issued an Accelerated Causes of Concern notice on the force after an inspection in January identified serious shortcomings in call handling triage and how investigations are supervised.

The force was told to address seven recommendations or face further action as it is “putting public safety at risk”.

The latest report described inquiries into sexting offences among children as “sometimes confused”, saying that sometimes officers without the right training are tasked with the investigation and in these instances “little, if any, investigation takes place”.

Officers throughout the force “do not always understand the importance of speaking to children, listening to them and recording their vulnerability”, it added.

Inspector of constabulary Wendy Williams said: “Staffordshire Police urgently needs to make fundamental changes to improve many of its child protection arrangements and practices.

“We have made a series of recommendations which, if acted on, will help to improve outcomes for children in Staffordshire. We will be closely monitoring the force’s progress.”

The force had “some areas of effective practice in child protection” but “overall we found the force’s child protection arrangements aren’t consistently providing a good enough response to effectively safeguard children in Staffordshire”, the report added.

The force’s temporary assistant chief constable Jennifer Mattinson said: “We accept the findings of the inspectorate and are committed to making improvements at pace to ensure we are effectively safeguarding children.

“Work is very much under way to address the concerns raised and it has been for some time. Since the initial inspection, new and refreshed training has and will continue to be delivered to officers and staff, and we have reviewed processes and procedures around missing children.”

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