It’s that time of year – trees are up, carol services are on and we are reflecting back on the year that has passed. 2019 has been an interesting and varied year with every ICV and scheme across the UK achieving a great deal. It’s a pleasure to write a piece to celebrate them.
ICVs and scheme managers have worked tirelessly on improving menstrual care over recent years. In many suites across the UK the old ‘feminine hygiene pack’ of paper knickers and a slim towel have been replaced by varied, high quality products. Some schemes have even developed bespoke dignity packs with their local forces. 2019 saw these changes enshrined into law and Authorised Professional Practice, making them both mainstream and legally required. Detainees now have access to someone of their own gender to discuss hygiene needs, women must be offered menstrual products, detainees must be advised that they can use the toilet without CCTV filming and dignity has been included in the Codes. This was a huge team effort: ICVs, scheme managers, PCCs, the APCC, the NPCC, police reps, the Home Office, ministers, MPs, the College of Policing and many more stakeholders than I can name all worked together to help to redraft PACE Codes. This is a good and lovely thing. It’s helped to ensure detainees are well cared for in area that can be difficult to talk about. It has also been fantastic to see ICV reports identifying a gap that has been met in legislation.
The QAF awards
2019 also saw one of our favourite nights of the year. Scheme managers and ICVs from across the UK travelled to the House of Lords this spring to celebrate their achievements in the Quality Assurance Framework. The Quality Assurance Framework (or QAF) brings together statutory requirements for schemes alongside other criteria, designed by scheme managers, defining what good looks like.
Attendees were welcomed by Lord Anderson who has a history of working in partnership with ICVs during his time monitoring terrorism legislation. Scheme managers and ICVs worked extremely hard to achieve each level and award and it was just brilliant to be able to celebrate them in Parliament for the change and oversight that they deliver.
Five schemes have taken part in a pilot to think about adapting the way that independent custody visiting is undertaken. The pilot, led by Derbyshire, has trialled a new method for visiting – one that places a greater focus on custody records and adapts visits to spend time observing the suite as well as speaking to detainees. Change is never easy, but these fantastic scheme managers and their ICVs have been brilliant at leading the charge, trying something new and seeing what works and what doesn’t. We’ve enjoyed the pilot so far and independent evaluators will help us to understand how to move forward next year.
It has been a busy year for international human rights work at ICVA. ICVA is a member of the UKNPM, a group of bodies who make unannounced visits to different areas of detention across the UK and required under international conventions. The NPM attended the Committee Against Torture earlier this year and promoted the work that ICVs to in order to maintain safe and dignified detention. The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (a UN body also known as the SPT) also visited the UK to look at how the NPM works. UN representatives went on an independent custody visit with some ICVs, seeing first-hand how they monitor detention. The UK has a proud tradition of volunteers monitoring detention and it has been fantastic to see this recognised globally. We will hear more from the SPT next year and will keep schemes informed of any feedback we receive.
There are many more highlights to share. Our scheme managers’ conference included a play bringing dignity in custody to life. Our schemes have helped us to redraft a new and improved QAF to be rolled out next year. Our network of schemes visiting terrorism detention continue to work hard together to ensure effective monitoring of detention and have welcomed a new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation to the role. We had a fantastic National Conference where speakers including G, Tony Herbert and Nick Hardwick gave moving and inspiring speeches. We’ve been awarded the CoPaCC transparency mark – the first non-PCC body to achieve this. We’ve visited some brilliant suites doing fantastic work. We’ve seen scheme managers blossom and new ones take over the role and do brilliant things. We’ve worked with national bodies such as the College of Policing, Home Office and APCC to make sure the fantastic work that ICVs conduct is shared and celebrated and so much more.
I’d like to close by thanking everyone who has been part of Team Independent Custody Visiting. Every ICV, every scheme manager, every office, every PCC and police authority and every partner who has worked with us. I’d also like to thank our fantastic National Expert Forum and Board who direct and drive ICVA’s work. 2019 has been a brilliant year. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and look forward to coming back even stronger in 2020.