Social deprivation happening on my doorstep?
My name is Kirsty Scott and I am the national manager for the Independent Custody Visiting scheme across Scotland (ICVS). The scheme is administered by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) which was established in 2013 as part of the reform of policing in Scotland, bringing 10 policing organisations across the country into one national service.
As well as holding the Chief Constable to account and overseeing continuous improving in policing, the SPA has a statutory obligation to deliver the independent custody visiting scheme and forensic services across Scotland.
To give you an idea of current ICVS landscape, there are 81 custody centres spread throughout Scotland which we split into three geographic regions – East, North and West – for management purposes. In 2018-19, almost 120,000 detainees passed through these custody centres.
The location of the centres is very diverse and that brings unique challenges. Some are way up in the Highlands and Islands and I have to take the smallest plane ever to get there. Luckily, to take my mind off the traumatic flight, you get a free caramel wafer biscuit!
So, you can imagine, trying to keep abreast of all things happening within custody across the country can be challenging. That’s why we have custody visitors to be our eyes and ears and provide independent feedback on what’s happening in all the centres. We currently have around 140 volunteers and I would like to take this opportunity to praise all my volunteers in Scotland for all their hard work and effort.
Being in this role has certainly provided me with a new perspective on custody provision and I wanted to highlight just one element of the good work that is happening in and around Scotland.
In the North they recently started to provide food parcels for those in need. The idea of food parcels came from the local inspector who identified an opportunity to help improve social deprivation in the local community. You see some detainees arriving into police custody that simply have no food and probably would not eat again until they commit a crime and return back into custody.
CFINE, a community food initiative in the North East of Scotland provided 45 food parcels, containing non-perishable food, to Kittybrewster custody centre in Aberdeen on 29 November 2019. By 15 December, these had all been given out. This successful service has been continued and, at the time of writing, over 100 detainees had been provided with food parcels when leaving police custody.
To allocate the food parcels, each individual is assessed when they first arrive as part of a vulnerability assessment. Officers and staff are able to look at their general appearance and seek professional interaction, for example with the nurse or doctor, and engage with the detainee on his/her social status. It is then established whether the individual would benefit from a food parcel when they leave detention.
Contained within each parcel is a leaflet stating ‘you don’t need to commit a crime to get a food parcel’ and information on where the local food bank is. As a result of this initiative, CFINE have managed to reach people who would not necessarily have come to them or didn’t even know the facility existed.
CFINE also now provides the Kittybrewster custody centre with free sanitary products for use by detainees.
This initiative has been so successful that discussions are taking place with a view to rolling this out nationally across Scotland by linking with local food banks in the North, East and West of Scotland.
If you’d like to know about our experiences, feel free to get in touch at: [email protected]
I would definitely encourage you to look at CFIN website https://www.cfine.org/ where you will find information on their community support.
If you’d like to read more about ICVS, you can read our annual review on the SPA website: http://www.spa.police.uk/icvs/