Still Concerns Over Beds Police's Vulnerability Protection

Bedfordshire Police has made some progress to improve the service it provides to vulnerable victims, but still has much more work to do.

In December 2015, Bedfordshire Police was one of four forces HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) graded as inadequate at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims.

HMIC found that Bedfordshire Police needed to urgently the serious weaknesses in its arrangements for protecting vulnerable people. The force still had more work to do in relation to tackling domestic abuse to ensure victims received a reliable and effective response. We also had serious concerns about the way Bedfordshire Police responded to and protected missing children, particularly looked-after children.

In April 2016, HMIC carried out an inspection revisit to examine whether the force has improved how it
protects vulnerable victims.

During the revisit, HMIC found that the force:

- has made some progress to improve its approach to missing and absent children, but there is still much more to do, which the force recognises;

- is committed to continue to train its officers and staff in the THRIVE risk assessment process, but needs to ensure that it is prioritising training in the context of many other demands;

- no longer assesses risk for domestic abuse victims over the telephone;

- needs to ensure that it communicates clearly and consistently its priorities around vulnerability to all officers and staff; and

- has considerably more to do to ensure that it equips its officers and staff with the right skills to support vulnerable victims.

HMI Zoe Billingham said: "When we inspected Bedfordshire Police in 2015, we found the force was failing vulnerable victims and needed to urgently address a number of serious weaknesses in its arrangements for protecting vulnerable people from harm. I am encouraged that since this inspection, the force has shown a commitment to improve in this crucial area of policing and has made some progress, but still has much more to do to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the community are properly protected.

"Particular areas of concern remain. The force¡¦s current approach to missing and absent children is still inconsistent and ineffective, which means that children could still be at risk as a result. While the force has taken steps to increase the number of specially trained frontline staff, it needs to be confident that this is sufficient to meet the current and future demand. An effective police force places vulnerable people and children at the heart of everything that it does. Bedfordshire Police needs to work harder to instil a change of mindset and approach to vulnerability among all frontline officers and staff, which will only be successful if it is underpinned by support from the chief officer team and senior leaders within the force.

"On a positive note, I am pleased to find that the force has improved how it assesses the level of risk posed to victims of domestic abuse, which was a significant concern in 2015. It is also encouraging to find that partnership working and sharing of information have improved. However, more work is still required to ensure that those in greatest need receive the police's protection and support and we look forward to seeing further progress during our effectiveness inspection in autumn 2016."

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Collins said: "Protecting vulnerable people remains our priority and focus at Bedfordshire Police and we are investing a huge amount of resources and time into ensuring we are providing the best possible service.

"We welcome the HMIC scrutiny and are keen to implement recommendations to help us protect those most at need.

"I'm pleased the revisit report recognises the progress we have made since the initial inspection and shows we have improved in the majority of areas - particularly around identifying those at risk of harm and working closely with partners to safeguard the vulnerable in our society.

"Since this latest revisit we have brought in new processes to ensure consideration of vulnerability is built in to everything we do, and have already seen further improvements in our service.  However, we recognise that there is always more that can be done and we are constantly reviewing the way we work and exploring new opportunities to better protect people.

"I am absolutely determined that the good work will continue and hope that this will be reflected in the next HMIC inspection on this priority area for the force."

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