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Child safeguarding gets praise but HMI concerned over resources

Two HMIC reviews of Hertfordshire Constabulary and the National Crime Agency for safeguarding have been published today.

Hertfordshire Constabulary is carrying out good work to divert children and vulnerable adults away from custody.

But HMI said improvements in its custody services must be followed up with work to reduce use of force.

The NCA was also praised for its approach to safeguarding over the past two years despite a huge increase in investigations that involve young people.

Having trained child protection advisors on teams has ensured vulnerability is considered more widely during investigations.

But both the NCA and Hertfordshire have resource-related issues to resolve.

The NCA’s child protection team has the biggest responsibility for ensuring safeguarding demands are met. HMI said that needs to change.

“It isn’t reasonable to expect them to develop the  safeguarding capability and change the workforce’s mindset to sufficiently achieve the objective,” HMI said.

“The NCA has a difficult decision to make. Will it invest more in central safeguarding  expertise and, in doing so, centralise the responsibility for safeguarding? Or invest in measures to make safeguarding the responsibility of everyone? This would require an extensive training, awareness and communications programme.”

Hertfordshire must now ensure the same level of attention put into child protection and diversion work is put into ensuring vulnerable people in custody get the same level of care.

The force has 13 areas of improvement to address, including some first raised in 2015.

HMI was unhappy about the lack of oversight over use of force, including concerns over whether the force used was necessary, justified, and proportionate in some cases.

HM Inspector Roy Wilsher said: “Anyone detained in custody should be treated fairly and kept safe from harm.

“Hertfordshire Constabulary cares well for its detainees and has a clear governance structure for the safe and respectful provision of custody services. The force has a robust healthcare structure in place and works well with partner agencies to care for those with mental ill health,” he added.

“However, we identified some weaknesses in how detainees are treated. We will continue to monitor the force’s progress.”

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