AN independent review of Cleveland Police's child protection services has delivered a mixed review.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has found that some improvements have been made to how the force protects children, it needs to take further action – in some areas as a matter of urgency – according to a new report.

Concerns were raised about its handling of missing children and how young people are detained but the force was praised for some of its innovative approaches to tackling the issue.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham said:“Our inspection of Cleveland Police highlighted some innovative work the force is undertaking to protect children. I was particularly impressed by the clear commitment from both staff and the chief officer team to improving services for children.

"However, the force still needs to do more to ensure children receive the support and service they deserve. In a significant number of cases we looked at there was poor supervision and record-keeping.

"The force's response to children who regularly go missing from home also requires improvement. I would like to see it focus on early intervention and ensuring that officers and staff understand the link between children who regularly go missing and their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

"I would also like to see the force further improve the treatment of vulnerable children in custody. There has been some commendable work in this area, but this is at an early stage, and needs now to progress."

Chief Constable Iain Spittal welcomed the positives in the report.

He said: “This report shows the real progress we’re making to ensure that all of our children grow up in safe environments, cared for and protected from harm.

“HMICFRS found that the Force is committed to protecting children. Protecting vulnerable people is a priority for both myself and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and is reflected in the police and crime plan.

“In 2016 we conducted an internal review of demand, which led to the allocation of additional resources for those departments responsible for child protection. The review also prompted significant changes to the governance and oversight arrangements that shape the force’s approach to child protection and vulnerability.

“It is positive that HMICFRS found that work being done by the Force is improving outcomes for vulnerable children and that our focus on vulnerability is translating into positive action for its child protection work.

“However, this is an ongoing process and we cannot, for the sake of our children, afford to be complacent. We will closely study the HMICFRS report and act quickly to address, if we have not already done so since the inspection, areas of improvement. We have, as identified by HMICFRS, a clear and unequivocal commitment to protecting vulnerable children and we will continue to strive to provide that protection.”