Police in West Yorkshire have been criticised for not doing enough to keep children safe.

Some child protection cases dealt with by the force were delayed and long and complex investigations resulted in a “weak response”, according to a new study by a police watchdog.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said some approaches were “inconsistent”. But the inspector also praised West Yorkshire for its clear commitment to improve and said officers responded quickly to specific concerns.

Police said protecting children was its top priority and has promised to take up any of the concerns..

Inspectors found staff who managed child abuse investigations were “knowledgeable, committed and dedicated to providing the best outcome for the child.”

But the inspection team warned “there is more to be done, particularly on the more difficult cases to ensure that delays are reduced”.

The force has been told that cases where children are kept in police custody overnight must be tackled.

The report said: “Police attendance at initial child protection conferences was unsatisfactory.

“Moreover, there were serious concerns about the failure of some staff to appreciate the value of police contribution in child protection cases.”

West Yorkshire’s Asst Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “Protecting and safeguarding children is our top priority and we are absolutely committed to doing everything that we possibly can to minimise the risks to children and ensure that they receive an appropriate level of care and are protected from harm.

West Yorkshire's new assistant chief constable Russ Foster.
 

“We will continue to build effective relationships with both statutory and voluntary partners and work closely with them to safeguard vulnerable children and take positive action against those who abuse or neglect children”.

“HMIC visited in August 2014, whilst we were in the throes of a comprehensive review of our safeguarding units and looking at enhancing service delivery, refining our structures and better managing our demand with a view to providing a consistently high quality service to protect children across the five districts of West Yorkshire”.

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has allocated more funds to beef up the service and said: “Protecting our children is of vital importance as I have made absolutely clear in the Police and Crime Plan and have discussed regularly with the Chief Constable.

“All agencies have a responsibility to work together to safeguard children and an action plan has been developed following a series of meetings I initiated with West Yorkshire Police and partners to identify what more needs to be done collectively with partners”.