Ongoing issues at North Yorkshire Police mean ‘there are delays in getting the right response to vulnerable children’, a new report says.
The force has made good progress in improving child protection, but more needs to be done says Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
In March 2022, the inspectorate published a report that was critical of North Yorkshire Police’s record of keeping children safe.
Inspectors found investigations in child protection cases were poor, including those involving missing children and child sexual exploitation.
Today the inspectorate has published its follow-up to assess the force’s progress in the last year.
An action plan was drawn up to tackle the concerns. “We found the force had made some positive progress but not all the actions were fully implemented and completed,” the inspectorate said today.
“We are concerned about delays in the force’s digital forensic unit (DFU) and that some complex investigations into online sexual abuse of children are allocated to inexperienced officers,” the report says.
- Read the full HMICFRS report here
“There are delays in some online indecent image investigations before referrals are sent to partner agencies. This means that these children can remain at risk unnecessarily.”
The police are collecting relevant crime data. “But managers aren’t making best use of this data to understand demand and allocate resources to deal quickly with problems,” the report says.
“The latest force exploitation profile is dated September 2020. This means much of the information is too dated to be of use.
“The lack of qualitative information from the force systems means leaders and managers can’t be sure of the progress staff are making against priorities. For example, in improving investigations or managing the risk of registered sex offenders.”
Automated systems aren’t in place to tell schools about pupils affected by domestic abuse incidents.
“And there can be delays in telling the local authority when a missing child is returned home.
“We also saw officers completing paper booklets about risks to children who had run away from home, rather than using electronic systems so the information can be seen immediately by other staff.”
The force has improved control room practice and supervision, inspectors found.
Following training, “control room responses to calls where children may be vulnerable had improved”, the report says.
But the current set-up still excludes specialist intelligence officers, meaning “some risk assessments are incorrect.
“So, there are delays in getting the right response to vulnerable children. This is also reflected in how some missing children investigations are allocated to area-based officers who don’t always have the resources to assess risk and act quickly.”
There is promising progress on sharing information about risk and vulnerability with the force’s safeguarding partners, including the local authorities.
The report concludes: “There has been some progress, particularly in the way the force has trained its workforce to identify children’s vulnerability and make good safeguarding referrals.”
It adds: “Despite progress against some of our recommendations, the force has yet to make all the progress necessary to complete its action plan.
“The force is developing performance monitoring and its governance systems, so it is clear leaders fully understand what still needs to be done.”
Inspectors will “continue to evaluate North Yorkshire Police’s performance”.
More work to be done
A North Yorkshire Police spokesperson said they had made progress in all areas of their action plan introduced after last year’s report.
The force “have invested £400K to reduce the backlog” in the digital forensic unit, speeding up investigations.
- Read the full North Yorkshire Police response here
“We are also establishing specialist safeguarding teams within each of our three command areas which will help us to develop a more specialist response to child safeguarding.
“We know that there is still further work to be done and are fully committed to delivering and completing the actions in our improvement plan.
“We know that this work is a priority for every vulnerable child in our communities and we will continue to apply and embed a child-centred response in our work.
“HMICFRS will be returning to the force at the end of 2023 and we expect to be able to demonstrate further improvements in our protection and care for vulnerable children.”