Sussex Police has improved the way it manages child protection cases over the past year, inspectors have found.
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) previously inspected child protection work at Sussex Police in 2018, finding that while the force was generally performing to a high standard, there were some problems.
A follow up report, which has been published today, has found that the force had since invested time and effort into improving its child protection services.
Specific improvements highlighted by inspectors included an ‘effective’ internal communications campaign to raise awareness of child protection and safeguarding issues, more comprehensive risk assessments for missing children (including the removal of the ‘no apparent risk’ category on force IT systems), establishing an action plan to assess the effectiveness of investigations and better procedures for collating, accessing and sharing information.
However, the report found that some issues remain.
For example, ‘prevention interviews’ with children who went missing but are subsequently found are not always carried out, according to the report.
Inspectors said these prevention interviews ‘allow police to identify and act on triggers for a child’s disappearance and, in doing so, reduce the likelihood of an incident happen again’.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said she was pleased with the results of the inspection.
She said: “The force has taken action on the recommendations we issued to it last year, and their monthly Vulnerability Board closely monitors the results of internal audits.
“The force is clearly committed to long term sustainable changes that are effective in improving outcomes for children, and we saw how senior leaders have engaged effectively with their partners to improve child safeguarding practice.
“There is still room for further improvement, which the force recognises. We have highlighted areas where further work is needed to fully embed some of the changes we recommended.
“However, it is clear that the force’s senior leaders, and its officers and staff remain deeply committed to providing an excellent protection and safeguarding service for children.”
Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “We are pleased to see that HMICFRS has recognised the effort the force has put into protecting children since the initial inspection in 2018.
“Over the last ten years there has been a significant increase in reports of children needing protection and this report is a valuable source of advice and direction to further improve our response and performance in this vital area of policing.
“As the review recognises, we are clear in our commitment to protecting vulnerable children and have made it a priority.
“It also acknowledges that officers and staff who manage child abuse investigations are committed and dedicated, often working in difficult and demanding circumstances, and that our engagement with partners works effectively.
“Our next steps are to continue to focus on the child and to further embed the culture of prioritising child protection across the whole force.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I am pleased and reassured that the HMICFRS review acknowledges significant work by Sussex Police to improve the protection of vulnerable children, with more specialist officers and more thorough check and review processes in place.
“Sussex can also be proud of its Young Witness Service that helps prepare young victims for giving evidence, and our unique video-enabled Vulnerable Victim’s Suites that provide safe places away from daunting court premises.”
Read more about the new vulnerable witness suite here.