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Dorset shows “clear commitment” to child protection, says HMIC

In April 2021, HMICFRS had made eight recommendations to the force regarding how they keep children safe.

Dorset has been assessed as making “clear improvements” in how it protects children and vulnerable young people in a report published today – however work remains to be done in a number of areas.

In April 2021, the original inspection rated the force’s child protection practice as “good” in 20 of 83 cases examined – 35 cases required improvement and 28 were inadequate. 

A post-inspection review has now found that the force has “worked systematically” to address the recommendations.

One of which was around reviewing missing person arrangements and practices – including a consideration of sharing information and developing joint investigative and protective plans.

Today’s review noted some improvements, including the creation of missing persons teams in two LPAs. However, it also highlighted that there remains some delays in the deployment of officers depending on risk, as well as delays in the ratification of risk assessments by control room managers. The review also found limited evidence of a multi-agency response to try and reduce missing episodes for children who regularly go missing.

Moreover, it criticised the small number of cases where inappropriate language was used by officers and staff, including phrases such as “missing through choice” and “appears deliberately missing”.

Meanwhile, increases in the size of MOSOVO teams has meant that managers are dealing on average with 50 registered sex offenders – now in line with national policing practice, where before the average had been 53.

However, while MOSOVO officers have received extra training, a dip sample of 15 cases where crime reports had been submitted for breaches of notification requirements- showed that all 15 investigations were completed by words of advice.

The review said: “While this might be appropriate in some cases, in line with wider risk management plan considerations, it shouldn’t be routine and isn’t in line with national policing practice.”

An area that was commended was the use of police protection powers, which were found to be used appropriately, with clear and detailed rationale - and the liaison with children’s social care services improved, as have the size of backlogs thanks to increased staffing levels in the multi-agency safeguarding hub.

A Gold Group has also been established to manage police response and oversee ongoing improvements.

“There has been wide-ranging investment in learning and development throughout the organisation. Frontline officers and specialist teams are given the skills they need to recognise vulnerability and risk and to provide an appropriate response,” the review said.

It concluded: “Dorset Police has made good progress in response to our 2021 recommendations. But the force recognises that it still needs to improve in some areas to provide consistently better outcomes for children. We are, however, confident that the force understands where it needs to improve.”

Dorset Police Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “We welcome this latest report following the post-inspection review. It clearly recognises the investment, commitment and focus to keep people safe to ensure we have the very best investigations, processes and partnerships in place to protect children and young people in all of our communities.

“I am really encouraged by improvements the force has made and confident of the plans we have in place, working with our partners to reduce harm caused to children and young people and continue striving to make Dorset the safest county.”

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