Rotherham
South Yorkshire Police were criticised after 1,4000 children were abused in Rotherham Getty Images

South Yorkshire Police (SYP) still require "major improvements" in how they deal with child protection in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

Ten months after a critical report about the force raised "serious concerns" in how they dealt with child abuse allegations, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the performance of officers in some areas remains poor.

The watchdog published their first findings one week after a damming report by Professor Alexis Jay revealed 1,400 children were abused in the town between 1997 and 2013.

The HMIC recorded a serious of failings at SYP, including one example where it took officers 11 hours to respond after receiving reports three young girls from a children's home were at the flat of an older man and another where officers failed to tell social services that two 13-year-old girls went missing from their care homes.

Following a post inspection review in April 2015, HMIC has said the force has shown improvements in some areas such as the force's initial response when attending incidents involving children at risk and officers showing a "strong desire" to improve outcomes for children who are at risk of harm.

However, the report also finds that despite a review of arrangements with care homes and provided guidance to police staff, this had "not resulted in improvements in practice".

It adds that the force was still "failing to recognise risks to some children" or work sufficiently with other child protection agencies. It added recording practices "remained poor" which limits the ability of staff to make good decisions about children.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham said: "It is common knowledge that South Yorkshire Police's approach to protecting children has been severely lacking. In September 2014 HMIC raised serious concerns about the way the force was approaching this kind of work, which was undermining the service it provides to children.

"We carried out this post-inspection review in order to understand what progress South Yorkshire Police had made since our initial inspection, and we found there were still areas that need major improvements.

"I am keen to stress however, that the situation in South Yorkshire is not irretrievable. There are tangible signs that the force is improving its service to children in some elements of its service to children, so I am encouraged that the senior leadership of South Yorkshire Police demonstrated the determination to make improvements."

SYP is currently under two separate investigations relating to child abuse. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating how officers dealt with the child abuse allegations in Rotherham, while the National Crime Agency has begun a new major inquiry into allegations of child sexual abuse in the town.

Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee said protecting children is "paramount" to the force's concerns but admitted more needs to be done.

"There has been a considerable increase in the number of police officers and staff in our public protection units, and also staff dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation. We are absolutely committed to achieving justice, stopping harm and preventing future offending."