Northamptonshire Police 'failing to protect vulnerable children'
A damning report on Northamptonshire Police's child protection regime says, despite three inspections, vulnerable children in the county may still be at risk.
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report says that in January inspectors found police child protection "wholly inadequate".
Further inspections found progress had been made, but more work was needed.
Police said they were working to maximise the protection of children.
The inspection in January found the force was not allocating enough resources to child protection, and staff had received insufficient training on how to safeguard children.
HMIC found unacceptable delays in sharing information about children at risk with other agencies and that police officers were not recognising potential risk to children when they attended incidents.
They were also failing to make referrals to either police child protection specialists or to other agencies such as children's social care.
HMIC said it would continue to monitor the force and would carry out a full re-inspection of child protection arrangements in October 2013 to assess if the force has made improvements and if this can be sustained.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said: "Our inspection in January... found that child protection arrangements were wholly inadequate, and that children at risk within the county were not being properly protected by the police and other agencies. This is simply unacceptable.
"Following our initial inspection, the force recognised changes needed to be made and our revisit in March found they had developed a plan to tackle the issue.
"The force has demonstrated it is taking child safeguarding seriously. But there is still much to do before it can offer assurance that children at risk are being adequately protected."'Alarmed by report'
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said the force had "fully embraced" the recommendations and would "ensure that the appropriate structures, staffing and processes are implemented to maximise the protection of children at risk across the county".
The initial inspection "alarmed" Northamptonshire Police and the force immediately responded to concerns, he said.
ACC Foster added: "I am confident that the joint action plan will ensure that each of the recommendations made will be delivered prior to the anticipated re-inspection by HMIC in the autumn of 2013.
"I will take personal responsibility for continually monitoring and reviewing progress to maximise opportunities to protect children at risk living in our communities."