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Report highlights use of 'early help officers' in multi-agency response

A Joint Area Child Protection Inspection has found that Walsall’s multi-agency response for children at the 'front door' is “effective” and “coordinated”.

The multi-agency response to the identification of initial risk at the ‘front door’ in Walsall is “effective” but the area is not immune to problems including intelligence sharing, a report has said.

The Walsall Local Safeguarding Partnership comprises Walsall Council, West Midlands Police and local NHS services.

A joint targeted area inspection has praised the culture of continuous and shared learning across the partnership and initiatives including WMP’s AWARE prompt which guides officers on how "to seek the voice of the child."

Also of note was the force’s employment of “early help officers” who are focussed on multi-agency work . It’s a new initiative that will see officers work with the partnership – WMP will monitor the impact of the scheme centrally.

Joint targeted child protection inspections began in 2016. Their aim is to assess how agencies collaborate to protect children. Ofsted, HMICFRS and the Care Quality Commission conducted Walsall's inspection. 

The report also noted areas that need improvement - WMP does not have an agreed process to share intelligence on investigations into online child abuse for example. 

It’s part of a wider problems around sharing data and information – with the police’s data alone currently being used to inform the “child exploitation profile” in the area.

Meanwhile, risks relating to a small number of children are not always fully identified by the force’s control room and officers do not see some children quickly enough while reassessments are not always made where delays in response occur.

Inspectors notd that force leaders “acted quickly in response to this finding” and that these children were subsequently visited.

The potential of BWV is also not fully realised – its use was found to be inconsistent despite its ability to directly capture children’s voices.  

Chief Superintendent Phil Dolby, local police commander for West Midlands Police at Walsall, said: “The report recognises the good work we are doing alongside our multi-agency partners.

"There are areas to improve and lessons to learn from within this report which will enable us to make further improvements as we go forward. We have taken steps including investing in the employment of additional staff to the new role of early help officers, schools-based officers and the creation of a multi-agency co-located Vulnerability Hub.

"This indicates how important we feel the benefits of multi-agency working is to help reduce the risk of harm to children.”

The partnership will develop an action plan in response to the areas for development identified in the report which will be submitted to inspectors in the spring.

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