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Devon and Cornwall police must improve how it tackles child sexual exploitation

A report says Devon and Cornwall Police has a 'lack of understanding' of the extent of child exploitation across the force area. Credit: PA: Fabian Stratenschulte

A report says Devon and Cornwall Police has a 'lack of understanding' of the extent of child exploitation across the force area.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the way officers deal with children who regularly go missing was highlighted as a serious concern which needs to be improved.

Devon and Cornwall Police demonstrated a strong commitment to improving services for the protection of vulnerable people. However, while we found a number of examples of good work to protect children, this commitment has not yet resulted in consistently improved outcomes for children.

We were concerned to find that in a significant number of cases we looked at, poor supervision and record keeping had undermined decision making and safeguarding measures. Some serious cases were investigated by non-specialist officers, resulting in delays, and potential risks posed by alleged offenders not being considered.

The force must also improve how it tackles child sexual exploitation. While the force is taking some steps to address this, it still has much more to do to demonstrate that it is able to effectively identify and safeguard children at risk. We found a concerning case involving a 15 year old girl who, in August 2014, was identified at being at risk of exploitation by an older man. We found no evidence that a longer-term safeguarding plan had been put in place to protect the girl from further exploitation and, at the time of the inspection, the girl still had not been spoken to by police. This is not acceptable.

– Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary

Devon and Cornwall Police says it welcomes the report and its acknowledgement of the hard work and commitment to improving services safeguarding children.

We are working hard to deliver improved outcomes for children and work that has been undertaken by the Force has shown that we have to improve recording standards, as often a great deal of work has taken place but has not been captured within the Force’s IT systems.

In respect of Child Sexual Exploitation, the Force has a dedicated team which deal with these types of offences and we are working with all of our partners to deliver the standards contained within the Peninsula Protocol and Strategy.

The Force also recognises the importance of not detaining children and young people in custody and at the time of the inspection we were working with children’s services across the peninsula to ensure appropriate arrangements are put into place to avoid this from occurring.

– Detective Superintendent Paul Northcott, Head of Devon and Cornwall’s public protection unit

'Desperate need' for families to adopt older children in Devon

Families often choose to adopt babies and toddlers - but 'Families for Children' says taking in an older child can be very rewarding. Credit: ITV News

A South West adoption charity says it is in desperate need of people willing to adopt older children across Devon.

Families for Children says that there are fewer babies and toddlers up for adoption, but taking in an older child can be very rewarding.

They add that people should not be worried about adoption, as the charity will offer lifelong support and training.


Fears vulnerable children could could be held in cells

The opposition leader of Devon County Council fears vulnerable children could be held in police cells if three children's homes in the county are forced to close.

The County Council instead wants to offer more foster places for children in the future.

Councillor Alan Connet, the leader of the Liberal Democrats is holding a debate this afternoon to try to save one of the homes from closure.

South West parents face biggest rise in child-raising costs

The cost of raising a child to the age of 21 has reached £222,000 as parents pay 58% more than a decade ago, with parents in the South West seeing the biggest hike in costs, according to an annual study. Families here now pay £100,077 more per child than ten years ago.

Education and childcare remain the biggest costs, with 76% of parents reporting that they have been forced to make cuts to meet the financial demands of raising their offspring, the survey for insurer LV found.

The overall figure is more than £4,000 up on last year and £82,000 more than ten years ago, when the first annual Cost of a Child Report was published.

"The cost of raising a child continues to soar and is now at a ten-year high. Everyone wants the best for their children but the rising cost of living is pushing parents' finances to the limit.

There seems to be no sign of this trend reversing. If the costs associated with bringing up children continue to rise at the same pace, parents could face a bill of over £350,000 in ten years' time."

– Mark Jones, LV Insurance