Wiltshire Police’s child protection has fallen under the microscope after investigators deemed it wasn’t providing a good enough response.

The force has “some areas of effective practice”, but overall the force “wasn’t providing a good enough response to effectively safeguard children in Wiltshire”.

It’s the second inspection at the force in a month that has found it needs to make urgent improvements.

Last month, Wiltshire Police were put into special measures by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), with the protection of vulnerable people one of its failings.

The latest damning report from the organisation found more areas of concern.

Inspector Wendy Williams said: “Wiltshire Police has some areas of effective practice in child protection, and there are dedicated officers and staff who are committed to keeping children safe. But, overall, we found that the force’s child protection arrangements weren’t consistently providing a good enough response to effectively safeguard children in Wiltshire.

“The force’s response to missing children isn’t good enough. The way it assesses vulnerability isn’t always effective or comprehensive, which means some crimes, abuse and child welfare concerns are not being identified when they should be. Throughout the force, officers do not always understand the importance of speaking to children, listening to them, and recording their views to inform the assessment of their needs.

“Encouragingly, the force has recruited to the full strength that its budget allows and increased staffing levels in some teams, such as the child abuse investigation team. But it doesn’t have enough detectives or specialist trained staff in its public protection department. Many frontline staff and supervisors are very inexperienced, and cases are not effectively supervised.

“We have made a series of recommendations which, if acted on, will help improve outcomes for children in Wiltshire. We will monitor the force closely to oversee its progress.”

One of the areas it was deemed as not good enough was missing children – where the risk faced by missing young people isn’t assessed consistently, and many reports are not responded to quickly enough.

The force doesn’t “engage well enough with these children to understand why they go missing and what needs to change to keep them safe”.

Of the seven cases assessed involving missing children, all seven were deemed inadequate.

A “common theme” in the reports were that “there are often delays in sending officers to find vulnerable children”.

Responding, Wiltshire Police said they have already developed a “comprehensive plan” to address the recommendations, with work overseen by a newly appointed chief inspector.

Assistant Chief Constable Deb Smith, the Force’s senior lead on vulnerability, said: “Protecting children is one of the most important things that we do and every child should grow up protected from harm. 

“We take our responsibility to safeguard those most vulnerable in our communities incredibly seriously and we expect to be rightly scrutinised for how we do this.”

She said many of the areas of concerns were “aligned” to the previous inspection, and the force has “already taken prompt and comprehensive action”.

This includes us establishing a dedicated taskforce focusing on re-setting and improving basic investigative standards to improve our service and deliver improved justice outcomes. 

“We’ve also focused on delivering enhanced training to our front line officers, our call centre staff and their supervisors, specifically on identifying vulnerability and risk. 

“The Chief Constable has been clear that improving service delivery is his highest priority and that we will be relentless in our focus on accelerating our work to do what is needed to improve our service.” 

The report found Wiltshire Police had good multi-agency approaches and dealt with child sexual exploitation well.