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Force uses consultants to implement child protection recommendations

Staffordshire’s 2021 HMICFRS inspection highlighted “fundamental changes” that needed to take place urgently within the force’s child protection arrangements and practices.

Staffordshire has made some significant structural changes within its adult and child protection work after recommendations were made by HMICFRS which placed the force under special measures last year. 

The Inspectorate had said that the force’s response to missing children was “confused and ineffective” and it was told to take action on recommendations as it was “putting public safety at risk”.

Outside consultant company PwC was brought in to help develop a new Public Protection operating model – within that were three key pieces of work; process mapping across all Public Protection Units, demand analysis and projections, and a mapping of the victims’ journeys.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jen Mattinson explained: “One of the things [the inspection] distilled for us was the confusing governance.

“They gave us a recommendation around clarity of governance and leadership. Because not only did we have [our Public Protection across] two different directorates [partnerships/safeguarding and investigations], but they fed up through two different Chief Superintendents into two different Assistant Chief Constables.

“So when HMIC said, can we talk to your chief officer lead for vulnerability? Or for child protection? We said - it’s sort of both. It all felt a little bit woolly and messy.”

Staffordshire has since joined the two directorates – initially doing it “bluntly” as a temporary measure while working with PwC to build a new model.

DCS Mattinson explained the decision to bring in PwC was to “enhance the capacity and capability to re-design the PPU” – she said that they brought specific change management skills, software and expertise which meant we could achieve a better outcome more quickly.

PwC worked with the force from October last year through to the end of January. 

Using consultants is not new within policing – the Civil Nuclear Police Authority’s Annual Report showed that expenditure on consultancy stood at £329,000 in 2021/22 – an increase from £93,000 the previous year due to a Business People and Support System project, while in April 2022, the Met responded to an FOI request saying they spend approximately £31 million with consultancies- no time frame was specified but the other questions in the request asked for a 12 month period.

Meanwhile, figures obtained last year by the Liberal Democrats showed that the Home Office spent more than £32 million on consultancy fees in 2020-21. Of that the College spent £3,867,000 – almost £2 million more than the previous year.

For Staffordshire – a key area of the new model is working alongside partners – that has included mirroring the adult-child model that the Local Authority uses. It replaces the previous investigations and safeguarding structure. 

"You don't want to speak with one person or one strand of the organisation when it's a safeguarding issue, and another for an investigation - because they go hand in hand," DCS Mattinson told Police Oracle. 

There is now one superintendent who deals with the child protection, and another who has adults – including adult safeguarding as well as RASSO.

Currently there's one child protection team - although work is ongoing to have child protection and child exploitation in different teams. 

The new structure has also been bolstered by an uplift in staff and conversations around colocation for child protection are ongoing. 

Another change has been in how the force approaches MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub).

“MASH is a way of doing business – it’s not a department," DCS Mattinson explained. 

“One of the things that HMIC does say we do well, is our harm reduction hubs [which are embedded in local policing teams].

“We’re bringing those into the public protection model, increasing the numbers, and then we'll just distil down exactly what they do because they will deliver our early MASH.”

“When we have, what indicatively might be a lower level of concern around a child, but which could later turn out to be the missing piece of the jigsaw - the next serious case review, that early information share will be done at a really local level through our harm reduction hubs with partners that they work with day in, day out. Partners who know those families and are the people who are working with those families usually anyway.”

Meanwhile, multidisciplinary teams will sit higher up for when things get escalated or when something comes in that already consists of a serious concern.

“A lot of forces have a MASH and they have one place where that happens.

“We've tried to set the approach that MASH is an information share. It’s not a team, it’s a thing that has to happen.

"Previously for us, MASH wouldn't have investigators in it. 

“So by creating the multidisciplinary teams or joint investigation teams with partners at the top end of child protection, you don't need to do the information sharing in the same way, because you're already part of that team.

"Meanwhile, information sharing for the less serious investigations is done within the harm reduction hubs."

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