DORSET Police has been ordered to immediately make a raft of improvements to protect the most at risk children.

The finding comes in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) following a critical inspection of the force.

Inspectors examined 83 cases where Dorset Police had identified children at risk and found the child protection practice was in adequate in 28 of these.

A further 35 were deemed to be requiring improvement, while just 20 were judged to be good.

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, said: “Dorset Police’s leaders are clearly committed to prioritising and improving child protection, and we found evidence of good work by dedicated frontline officers. In particular, the force is good at working with other organisations – such as schools and social care services – to keep children safe.

“But there is more work to do to provide better outcomes for vulnerable children in Dorset, including improving how the force responds to reports of missing children, investigates online sexual exploitation, manages registered sex offenders, and treats children detained in custody.

“We are optimistic that Dorset Police can turn its commitment into tangible improvements for children. We have made several recommendations that, if acted on, should lead to better results for children, and we will revisit the force within six months to review its progress.”

The report said HMICFRS found examples of good work, including a good understanding of those children most at risk from exploitation, and the swift exchange of information with children’s social care services.

However, HMICFRS said in too many cases there were inconsistent practices and decision making.

The inspectorate made several recommendations, including that Dorset Police should immediately:

  • Improve its management of registered sex offenders, including how it monitors offenders through home visits.
  • Review its missing persons arrangements to ensure there is always an effective response to missing children.
  • Review its child protection and exploitation investigations, including improving the way cases are risk assessed and recorded.

The report said in too many cases inconsistent practices and decision making were found.

“The force does not always recognise broader risks to children,” it said. “There are some poor responses and investigations, and the management of those who pose a risk to children must be improved.

“These inconsistencies affect safeguarding and potentially leave children at risk.

“They need to be addressed to make sure that the force safeguards all children appropriately.”

Dorset Police Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “We welcome the report and are pleased with the good practices highlighted. Dorset Police has worked hard with partners to ensure investigations and processes are in place to protect children and young people in all of our communities.

Dorset Echo: Dorset Police Chief Constable Scott ChiltonDorset Police Chief Constable Scott Chilton

“Collaboration is required to do this effectively and we have built and commit to develop strong relationships with safeguarding partners.

“We also welcome the recommendations for improvements, of which we will fully take on board and are already putting strategies and training in place to ensure progress is made.

“I take very seriously any recommendations to further protect vulnerable children and have immediately put in place measures to address these recommendations.

“We will continue to work closely with our staff and partners to ensure we effectively address these areas and are able to deliver the highest possible service of care to the children and young people of Dorset.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset David Sidwick said: “I welcome the report and although it preceded the start of my term of office as Police and Crime Commissioner, I am thankful to HMIC for recognising the challenges in this area of work.

Dorset Echo: Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset David SidwickPolice and Crime Commissioner for Dorset David Sidwick

“My office is working closely with Dorset Police leadership to ensure efforts to address the areas for improvement highlighted are done so swiftly, and I look forward to both seeing the force response in the coming weeks and welcoming back HMIC in six months for them to review the same.”

The HMICFRS report comes less than a year after BCP Council’s children’s services were slammed by Ofsted.

Inspectors found the local authority department was leaving “vulnerable children at risk of harm”, according to a report published in November 2020.

In January, the council issued a 15-point action plan to address the serious concerns that were raised.