South Yorkshire Police welcomes report on child protection

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South Yorkshire Police has welcomed the recommendations of an inspection on child protection that took place in May.

South Yorkshire was the second force to be inspected and has received the findings from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The 35-page report recognises examples of ‘very good investigations into child sexual exploitation with sensitive interviewing of children, pursuit of evidence from a range of sources and attention to detail in searches of homes and computers’.

Inspectors also recognised the force’s engagement ‘with parents about how they should approach their conversations with the child in ways that would allow the child to be supported’.

The multi-agency joint investigations, which allow information to be gathered and assessed quickly to allow for prompt action, were also praised.

Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee said: “South Yorkshire Police has made, and continues to make, great strides in child protection and this report makes recommendations which allow us to progress further.

“I’m pleased to see that the report recognises the sensitive way in which we approach victims, as this is absolutely crucial if we are to assist those in fear today of coming forward tomorrow. We take child protection issues extremely seriously and will work with all of our partners to ensure every aspect of the child’s safety is considered in all of our decisions.”

The report highlighted some inconsistencies across the force area in our response to child sexual exploitation.

The force said this is being addressed by the centralisation of the referral unit and a review of the structure of the Public Protection Unit, which is currently underway.

ACC Lee said: “To improve consistency across the force we have developed a Central Referral Unit where all referrals relating to children are received from police and partner agencies; this ensures a structured and multi-agency approach to all child safeguarding investigations and concerns.

“We’ve also set up co-located multi agency teams in every district. These teams comprise specialist officers from public protection, social workers and representatives from Barnardo’s. In Doncaster, we are also piloting the role of a Children in Care Liaison Officer. This is a liaison officer who engages with the children and staff of care homes by providing a positive role model, a link into the specialist services and a support to reduce the criminalisation and harm of children in care.

“We’re also working creatively to prevent harm. We now use polygraph tests with known sex offenders including those who have had indecent images of children to assess the risk they pose.

“We also share information with the public. Under the domestic abuse disclosure scheme - also known as ‘Clare’s Law’ - anyone who is concerned about the risk of domestic abuse can be provided with information about a person’s relevant previous convictions, intelligence and concerning behaviour. We’ve made 18 disclosures since the scheme was introduced in March 2014.

“And similarly under the child sex offender disclosure scheme, or ‘Sarah’s Law’ as it’s more commonly known, convictions can be disclosed for child sex offences and other convictions, intelligence or concerning behaviour which is relevant to the safeguarding of children. We’ve made ten disclosures in the last nine months, we will never be able to identify the true benefit of this disclosure or how many children this has saved from harm.”

“We understand the complexities of child sexual exploitation and we don’t shy away from difficult investigations. All victims receive the highest standards of service possible.

“If we find evidence that appropriate action has not been taken we will ensure that is dealt with properly and robustly.”

The force said the pilot scheme of the Children in Care Liaison Officer will assist it in addressing concerns raised about securing accommodation for children in custody. It will have a direct link in to care homes to firstly prevent the offending but secondly to ensure appropriate accommodation is available should it be required.

It is also reviewing its systems and processes to minimise the amount of time children and young people spend in police custody.

ACC Lee added: “We continually look at different ways to prevent harm to our young people and, where harm does occur, we are relentless and robust in pursuing those responsible. Today, we’re absolutely clear on what needs to be done and this report, like the Jay report, recognises the improvements we have made and continue to make.”