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.
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.
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