Child protection - agencies still need to work better together

19 May 2016

More needs to be done to ensure there is better partnership working between agencies dealing with child protection cases, such as the police, social services and local councils. That’s according to the President of the Superintendents’ Association, Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, who today was speaking on the final day of our annual conference.

He said there should be a more joined up approach to how vulnerable children and people are dealt with such as Baby P and Victoria Climbié.  During his input, he spoke about how the work of public protection units had significantly improved since the Bichard enquiry, which looked into how information is shared between police forces following the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. However, there are still some significant work to be done and discussions need to be had at government level as to how a joined up approach could be taken to look at how cases on vulnerable children and people are dealt with.  
Mr Thomas said: “It is only once a serious case review* has been undertaken, that we as public agencies collectively understand who knew what, when and where, but if this information has been shared at the right time, in the right place between the right professionals, maybe just maybe that child, or victim of domestic violence may have survived and lived.”

Training is also an issue. A survey, responded to by 68% of its members who work in public protection, found:

  • 82% had received no training or development before starting their role
  • 48% have no previous experience of working in a public protection role
  • 70% said that there were no arrangements in place for their health to be checked prior to taking on the role in public protection.

Also speaking at the session was Gareth Edwards, representing the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), who said that the biggest growth area in crime is child protection and abuse. The NPCC has seen an unprecedented rise in demand – there has been an 88% rise in incidents reported to the police and the average cost of an investigation into a child abuse case can cost around £19,000.

He also outlined the Child Protection Abuse Investigation (CPAI) working group which plans to look at ways in which they can better support officers working in public protection roles, such as further training provided by the College of Policing.

Detective Superintendent Tim Martin, Head of Public Protection Investigation for Staffordshire Police, also highlighted the pressure that the public protection teams in his force are under, and that the safeguarding of victims is the responsibility of many agencies, not just the police.

A question from the floor accepted that there was still work to do but that we must not forget, police officers contribute to saving the lives of thousands of victims, and deal with some harrowing cases, so we shouldn't focus on the negatively all the time.

*A serious case review takes place after a child dies or is seriously injured and abuse or neglect is thought to be involved before it happens.