Two police forces graded inadequate at dealing with the public

Concerns were raised about the speed of answering calls and failures in protecting vulnerable people. Credit: PA

A watchdog had graded two police forces inadequate in aspects of how they deal with the public.

Surrey Police was criticised by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) for the speed of answering calls.

Meanwhile concerns were raised over Thames Valley Polices' failures in protecting vulnerable people. Surrey answers 77% of 999 calls within 10 seconds, below the national target of 90%, and nearly half of the 101 calls to the force (47%) are abandoned. A fault with its public yellow phones, placed outside police stations for use when the front desk is closed, led to the devices making thousands of unprompted 101 calls, with the force receiving 8,000 such calls in June alone.

On average Surrey normally receives 12 genuine calls from the yellow phones per day. They are now set to be decommissioned. The force has now been told to improve within three months.

Police and fire service inspector Roy Wilsher said: “I have concerns about the performance of Surrey Police in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service. “The force doesn’t always answer emergency and non-emergency calls in a timely manner, and some callers simply give up. This means crime will go unreported and vulnerable people will not be safeguarded.

Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend said she was “confident” the force has made “good progress”. “In November, we recorded the best performance for answering 101 calls since late 2020. The time taken to answer a non-emergency call to the force has dropped by almost 84% when compared with March this year. “In addition, 88% of 999 calls are now answered within 10 seconds, and call abandonment on 101 has dropped significantly.” Thames Valley Police came under fire for how it deals with vulnerable people. The watchdog found that multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs), that meet to discuss vulnerable people, were understaffed and cases beset by delays.

Inspectors said Thames Valley police had taken immediate action to boost staff numbers in teams dealing with vulnerable people. Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA

Despite guidelines to deal with cases involving children within 24 hours, and if not in less than 72 hours, inspectors found some cases that were at least two weeks old, and one vulnerable adult who had not been assessed for six weeks. The number of staff vacancies in the units was at its highest and workers reported feeling overwhelmed by pressure, with no time to check police records for information about cases. Inspectors said: “ The force has immediately taken steps to increase staffing levels within the MASHs to cope with demand. “We are encouraged by the steps the force has taken to address these concerns and the positive impact these are having. “The force plans to carry out an in-depth review of how this unit functions and can be improved.” Thames Valley Police should also reduce the number of 101 calls that are abandoned, with 28% of callers currently hanging up before their call is answered, HMICFRS said.

Mr Wilsher said: “ The force has nine multi-agency safeguarding hubs due to the size of the force area, and I am concerned about some of the processes within these hubs. “It needs to make sure it has effective and consistent processes in place to protect vulnerable victims and share information promptly with other safeguarding agencies. “The force had a change in leadership in the six months leading up to our inspection, and the new team has a clear purpose that it has communicated well, which focuses on building trust, serving victims, fighting crime and valuing the workforce. Thames Valley Police chief constable Jason Hogg said: “We have an incredibly committed workforce who came into policing to protect people from harm and protecting vulnerable people is at the core of what we do.

"We take safeguarding extremely seriously and have been working closely with HMICFRS since their inspection to make sure we have rigorous processes in place to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

"We have already made significant improvements and are confident our new approach is making a difference.”

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