Northamptonshire Police has not made improvements to its child protection procedures since a critical report 12 months ago, inspectors say.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) previously inspected the force’s child protection capabilities in March 2018, highlighting a range of problems.
Today’s National Child Protection Post-Inspection Review of Northamptonshire Police found that many of those problems had not yet been resolved.
Particular issues identified in the 2019 report included substantial delays in the logging of missing children and a backlog in investigating electronic devices.
It also said the force had made 'concerning decisions' regarding the management of registered sex offenders - in particular sending warning letters to offenders who breach their conditions as a matter of course, without proper investigation of the causes of the breach.
HMICFRS examined 21 child protection case files as part of the latest inspection. None of these cases were assessed as ‘good’ by the Inspectorate and 11 were rated as ‘inadequate’.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Zoë Billingham, said: “Our 2018 inspection should have been an urgent wake-up call. But too frequently Northamptonshire’s most vulnerable children are still being poorly served by those who should protect them.
“We are especially concerned to see a continuing problem with delays and backlogs, particularly with online investigations. We identified many of these issues during our previous inspection and so it is disappointing to see them still.
“The force is working hard to address a legacy of long-term underfunding and some areas of improvement are evident.
"For example, since our last inspection, the force has made a real effort to raise awareness about child protection matters through an internal communications campaign. It is investing in increasing the number of police officers and staff working in the vitally important area of child protection. I hope to see further improvements in the near future.”
However, there have been some improvements since the previous inspection. There has been a “significant decrease” in the number of outstanding visits to registered sex offenders. The Inspectorate also found that Northamptonshire Police has improved its understanding of the reasons children go missing.
As a result of the inspection, HMICFRS has issued another list of recommendations for improvement. It will carry out a re-inspection of the force within the next 12 months.