More needs to be done to bring a police force’s child protection services up to scratch, inspectors have said.
Dorset Police was scrutinised on how well it keeps children safe by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
It made eight recommendations in April 2021, including improving its response to missing children.
A post-inspection review has found the force has made good progress but “still needs to improve in some areas”.
Inspectors found the creation of missing person teams in its two local policing areas was a positive step.
However when children went missing it found the assessment of risk in the control room had improved, but there were still delays in officers being deployed.
Reviewing child protection and exploitation investigations, inspectors found officers in specialist departments were well trained, but found the quality of investigations to be “inconsistent”.
Inspectors added: “Problems remain with how information is shared with children’s social care services.”
Also during the post-inspection review in April this year, which was published on Wednesday, 31 child protection cases were audited – 10 cases were good, 10 required improvement and 11 were inadequate.
The review recognised the response to taking children into police protection and liaison with children’s social care services had improved.
Some improvements to the way children were treated when detained in custody were also seen – with officers encouraged to seek alternatives to arresting children.
Inspectors said: “When they are arrested, efforts are made to ensure that they are in detention for as little time as possible. This means there are only small numbers of children arrested and few are detained overnight.”
HMICFRS said it was “confident that the force understands where it needs to improve. We are also satisfied that senior leaders have plans to make these improvements and to monitor progress.”
The watchdog added: “We will continue to evaluate Dorset Police’s performance in relation to these recommendations and instigate closer scrutiny if necessary.”
The force said it was committed to making improvements.
Dorset Police’s Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “I am really encouraged by improvements the force has made and confident of the plans we have in place.”