An independent report yesterday accused the West Midlands Police (WMP) of having a ‘general lack of understanding’ when solving difficult cases involving child sexual exploitation.
The report, commissioned by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), claimed that staff were committed and highly motivated but lacked expertise and effectiveness in more complex investigations.
The news comes as council bosses have said that stopping child sexual exploitation is one of the biggest challenges facing child protection workers.
A new 19-point plan unveiled by the Birmingham Board for Safeguarding Children aims to build better community networks that can help improve education on issues surrounding sex offences to help identify those responsible, but many organisations across the UK are calling for greater action to provide children with the service they deserve.
Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for Children, is unsurprised by findings in the HMIC report, and told Burn FM that young people across the country are constantly let down by people and institutions who fail to give them a voice.
The charity, which has been campaigning for children’s rights for four decades, is advocating the idea of a truth and reconciliation process to expose misconduct and benefit those who have been victims of sexual and emotional abuse in the past.
Meanwhile, the NSPCC have said that police here ought to be praised for action they have taken to drastically improve their response to child sexual exploitation.
However, Sandra McNair, Midlands Regional Head of Services for Children and Families, highlighted that ‘forces should leave no stone unturned in bringing perpetrators to justice, preventing them from committing further crimes’.
In a statement yesterday, the police announced that a Strategic Child Abuse Governance Board is to be set up to monitor the work of the force in these areas. WMP Assistant Chief Constable Carl Foulkes also said that he was disappointed that the timing of the report came just two days after the installation of new arrangements in child protection services, and talked of the hard work that the force were already doing alongside local partners to safeguard children.
Operation Sentinel is part of the main strategic plan used by the West Midlands Police to tackle hidden crimes within vulnerable communities. Since its launch twelve months ago, 1,000 officers have attended theatre-based workshops in order to develop their investigation techniques.
The police Public Protection Unit has also doubled in size and now has 800 officers and staff available at its disposal.
The HMIC report is part of an ongoing series of inspections into child protection units in England and Wales with the body set to assess their progress over the next two years.
Photo Credit: West Midlands Police
You can listen to a clip from BurnFM’s interview with Fair Play for Children here: