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Criminal Care? · 19 Jul 2019

Good policing practice with children’s homes in Nottinghamshire

One of the objectives of this programme has been to collect and disseminate examples of good practice by police forces in addressing criminalisation. We recently wrote to Nottinghamshire Police to ask the force what it was doing to address the high levels of police call-outs that were disclosed through the Freedom of Information request, details of which we published earlier this week (8 July) in our latest briefing, ‘Know your numbers’: using data to monitor and address criminalisation.

The response we received from Nottinghamshire Police demonstrates a number of key points that we have highlighted in this latest and previous briefings, including Best practice in policing:

  • The vital role of data in identifying and addressing issues and problem areas;
  • The importance of having a multi-agency protocol in place and working collaboratively with partners;
  • The need for child-centred policing to be implemented and encouraged at a high level in the force;
  • Concerns around missing incidents;
  • The need to identify homes that are calling the police and to work with providers to ensure a common understanding of when it is appropriate to call the police and when it is not;
  • The importance of liaison between the police and Ofsted to ensure that issues are highlighted to the regulator.

This is what Nottinghamshire Police told us:

“At a strategic level Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cooper chairs a quarterly Child Centred Policing meeting at which the key areas of policing are represented. This has enabled us to develop a monitoring framework and impact log through which ‘child centred’ activities are tracked, providing assurance and force wide oversight.

“Nottinghamshire has dedicated Missing from Home (MFH), Locate and Safeguarding teams. These teams focus on high risk missing from homes, and those cases where the MFH is at risk of child sexual or criminal exploitation. A significant proportion of these cases concern children in care and the staff within the teams build good rapport and professional knowledge on how to best manage the episodes, both with the young person, the family and care providers. We have a robust return interview process in place, where records cannot be finalised without completion, and the safeguarding team proactively ensure that follow up referrals and multi-agency action takes place.

“A monthly multi-agency scrutiny panel is held and chaired by the police. The meeting covers those young people most frequently missing during the reporting period and those most at risk. The meeting is called ‘Multiple missing and Hotspots meeting’. A standing agenda item is top reporting locations, a list which is generated through data we routinely collate to enable us to identify patterns and inter-dependencies between missing episodes, providers and other reported incidents. Through this we are able to highlight issues with particular homes or placements and then influence what change is necessary.

“Additionally, MFH coordinators review incidents reported to the police daily, checking for policy compliance and escalating issues where necessary. For example, there was an issue with a certain provider that had numerous reporting issues for the few children they housed, so the police requested a meeting with social care and the provider which resulted in staffing and procedural changes.

“Nottinghamshire Police has two dedicated children in care police officers who work with young people and the care providers. The established posts are jointly managed by Children’s Social Care and are now replicated across both Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Local Authorities. Over the years the structure of children’s residential homes has changed considerably and in the city alone we now have ten small group homes run by Nottingham City Council and sixty five private run establishments. A principal accountability of this role is working with those care providers and Ofsted, promoting best practice and identifying opportunities for learning and training.

We have seen a reduction in offending behaviour of children in care from 20% 12 years ago to 4.3%

“The children in care officer will often be tasked with problem solving specific issues that arise within residential settings. Significant work has been done by the officers in reinforcing boundaries and guiding providers where incidents should not be reported as crimes and should be dealt with as they would be in a family home. Another aspect of the role is to generate and signpost children in care into diversionary activities as well as undertaking campaigns such as awareness training of CSE with budget hotels and door staff.

“Nottinghamshire has successfully introduced the Multi-Agency Reducing Offending Behaviour Protocol for Children in Care which has been shared with other forces as a model of best practice. In Nottingham City we have seen a reduction in offending behaviour of children in care from 20% 12 years ago to 4.3% (Corporate Parenting Board report 2018). The protocol is supported by the CPS with a dedicated Senior Crown Prosecutor for youth work who also sits on the Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny panel. In addition to this there is a dedicated Youth Justice worker for children in care, and weekly out of court disposal panels where specialists assess the cases, determining the most appropriate outcome with a keen focus on reducing first time entrants.”

These are, Nottinghamshire Police tell us, just a few representative examples of the work the force is doing to address vulnerability and prevent criminalisation. We are grateful to the force for sharing them with us.

Claire Sands

 

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