Watchdog report calls for urgent improvements in child protection at Staffordshire Police

Staffordshire Police “urgently needs to make fundamental changes” so it can properly protect children, according to a watchdog.

Inspectors made a series of recommendations for the force to improve its child protection measures, including how it handles cases involving missing children.

The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said the force’s response to missing children is “confused and ineffective” and at times does not have the right procedures in place to find high-risk missing children.

“In some cases, the force takes far too long to recognise the risk and respond in the right way,” it said.

Inspectors also found the force does not “clearly prioritise the safeguarding of children in all investigative activity”.

The report described probes into sexting offences among children as “sometimes confused”, saying that sometimes officers without the right training are tasked with the investigation and in these instances “little, if any, investigation takes place”.

Officers throughout the force “do not always understand the importance of speaking to children, listening to them and recording their vulnerability”, it added.

Inspector of constabulary Wendy Williams said: “Staffordshire Police urgently needs to make fundamental changes to improve many of its child protection arrangements and practices.

“We have made a series of recommendations which, if acted on, will help to improve outcomes for children in Staffordshire. We will be closely monitoring the force’s progress.”

The force had “some areas of effective practice in child protection” but “overall we found the force’s child protection arrangements aren’t consistently providing a good enough response to effectively safeguard children in Staffordshire”, the report added.

The force’s temporary assistant chief constable Jennifer Mattinson said: “We accept the findings of the inspectorate and are committed to making improvements at pace to ensure we are effectively safeguarding children.

“Work is very much under way to address the concerns raised and it has been for some time. Since the initial inspection, new and refreshed training has and will continue to be delivered to officers and staff, and we have reviewed processes and procedures around missing children.”

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