Police failures to take child protection seriously could lead to a repeat of the abuse scandals seen in Rotherhamand Oxford, the chief inspector of schools has claimed.
Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw said that there are 'serious weaknesses' in how a string of forces deal with the issue in a damning letter to police watchdog chief Sir Tom Winsor.
He wrote: "My worry is that if chief constables fail to give this issue sufficient priority, we may see a repeat of the sort of catastrophic failings we saw a few years ago in places likeRotherham, Oxford and elsewhere."
A report published in 2014 found that in Rotherham 1,400 children were sexually abused between 1997 and 2013; while in Oxford more than 300 were violently abused and tortured over more than 15 years.
In Rotherham, those in authority were accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse, which was said to have been carried out by men of predominantly Pakistani heritage.
Accusing some forces of failing 'to take their child protection responsibilities seriously', Sir Michael said that more than half of Ofsted's 42 inspections of local authority children's services in 2015-16 revealed 'serious weaknesses' in police contributions to protecting youngsters.
There were cases where forces were not quick enough in telling social workers when children went missing, Sir Michael said, and officers had failed to attend key meetings about child protection, or visits with social workers. In a number of forces there were delays in flagging up domestic abuse cases to the local council.
In his reply, Sir Tom, who leads watchdog Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, said the body is currently assessing how well police deal with vulnerable victims and child safety.
He said: "We will persist in ensuring that the police understand their very high public duty most efficiently and effectively to use their powers, and discharge their responsibilities, in connection with the protection of children."
The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said he will raise Sir Michael's concerns with all chief officers.