Interview: Alastair Jeffrey of the Metropolitan Police’s child abuse investigation command

Child protection is one area where social workers are likely to come into contact with the police, and the new head of the Metropolitan Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Command is keen to get more input from the sector into his plans.

Detective chief superintendent Alastair Jeffrey was made head of the command in April but he had been acting up in the role since October. He has worked in the command for almost four years and, prior to his new job, was head of its paedophile unit, computer crimes unit and intelligence unit.

Jeffrey says that the London Safeguarding Children Board, a multi-agency pan-London body, is already being consulted on the command’s plans. But he wants more input from social services on what they think its wider priorities should be.

One issue looming on the horizon is the Children Act’s requirement for all local safeguarding children’s boards (LSCBs) to have child death review teams in place to look into all child deaths in their area from April 2008.

The teams are likely to consist of professionals from social services, health and the police. There are 32 LSCBs in London, but Jeffrey says there will not be a team for each as this could mean 32 different approaches to conducting the reviews and limited oversight across geographical boundaries. He also doubts it would be cost effective and says a solution is being negotiated.

Last October, Community Care revealed that the command was looking into cutting its 19 child protection referral desks, which take calls about child abuse from social services across London.

Some social care chiefs fear the proposal could lead to the loss of personal relationships with officers on the desks. But Jeffrey says a pilot involving fewer desks is currently being run in south east London and no final decisions will be made until that has been fully evaluated.

“We are looking at whether, by putting them together, you can then release some staff into front-line investigation, and what the impact of that is going to be on our partners,” he says.

The Common Assessment Framework, which is set to be implemented in each area by March 2008, is another change facing the command. Jeffrey anticipates that the CAF will increase the number of referrals it receives as the threshold for recording information is much lower than at present.

Under current procedures, all cases of children at risk in the capital are dealt with by the command. But Jeffrey says that, given the Every Child Matters requirement for organisations as a whole to be concerned with children’s welfare, the Met could change this.

“If a police officer goes to a house where there’s been domestic violence and there are two children in the house who are not known to be at risk for any other reason apart from being in a house where domestic violence has taken place, that comes to us. But should it? Or should it be referred to a different part of the police service to evaluate the risk in the first instance?”

Jeffrey says that, despite the command perhaps not being the best body to deal with such situations, it is important that they continue to be recorded and dealt with.

“Sometimes organisations, such as the police and social services, don’t pick up on a trend of low level incidents which, if you put them together, would actually raise the risk [faced by a child] significantly. It’s about how you pick everything up that you possibly can,” he concludes.

About the command…
● It was formed in response to the recommendations from the inquiry into Victoria Climbié’s death.
● It investigates child abuse by family members, carers and professionals and deals with around 8, 000 offences a year.
● It has 580 members of staff and 19 child abuse investigation teams which cover all 32 London boroughs.

Click to find out more about the command’s work

Contact the author
Amy Taylor

This article appeared in the 30 August issue under the headline “London children’s top cop”

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