Vulnerable children are being failed by Lancashire Police, according to a damning report published today.
The force has been accused of not providing a service which is capable of safeguarding all youngsters at risk of harm in the county.
The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary says weaknesses were discovered in the police’s approach to child protection during a 10-day visit in October, “some of which are significant, resulting in children being left at unnecessary risk.”
And the force has been ordered to sort out its failings – some of them immediately – before a follow-up inspection is carried out in the next six months.
“We found deficiencies in a number of critical areas,” said the Inspectorate.
“While some improvements have been made, the constabulary needs to take further action, in some areas as a matter or urgency, to stengthen its safeguarding practice to provide better protection for those children most at risk.”
The report will come as a huge blow to Lancashire Police which in the past has been viewed as leaders in child protection by other forces across England and Wales.
Deputy Chief Constable Sunita Gamblin said: “The findings are concerning. Every child has the right to feel safe and protected and trust that they can turn to the police.
“The recommendations that have been published are issues we are urgently addressing.
“I would welcome them (the Inspectorate) coming back in six months time - or even before - because as soon as the inspection took place we started urgently addressing the issues, because we take it very, very seriously.
“What this report is saying to me is it (child protection) is everyone’s business, all of the time.
“I want everyone to know they all have a role to play in making sure children are safe and we spot the signs.
“Over the next few months I will be making sure we invest in training for all our frontline staff.”
While serious areas of concern have been raised by the inspection, the report does highlight the good work currently being done by the force.
It says: “Lancashire Constabulary and its senior leaders are committed to providing the best service for vulnerable children.
“The force has taken steps to improve information sharing in each of the multi-agency teams, which helps to improve outcomes for children through early intervention and prevention activity.”