Guest Blog – ICVA, QAF and reflections from a scheme


March 5, 2020

Guest Blog

  • blogging
  • custody visits
  • Police and Crime Commissioner
  • QAF
  • Quality Assurance Framework
  • volunteers

When I first started as Scheme Administrator for the Norfolk ICV scheme at the back end of 2018, I felt fairly comfortable I’d be up and running in no time. I’d spent 30 years with the Police, mostly as a Sergeant and civilian supervisor and seemed to have dealt with virtually scenario you’d ever be likely to face in life….so my new little part-time job would be a breeze right?

How wrong could I have been……….?

I joined my Scheme at quite a tough time and had a mountain of challenges to face, many of which I hadn’t indeed encountered during the 30 years I refer to above. The previous administrator had been gone for 4 months and although my boss at the time, the wonderful Martin Barsby, (former ICVA Director), had been holding the fort, he was running the PCC’s public consultation on the Fire Service and simply hadn’t been unable to devote enough time to the day to day running of the Scheme.

I didn’t really have time to get my feet under the table as we only had 16 of 24 volunteers in place and we were struggling to cover visits. And so started a frenetic period advertising, interviewing and training new recruits…all of which again was very new to me. …

Just as I started to see some daylight however – ICVA’s first QAF landed.

When I first started my job, I admit that despite being aware of ICVA, I wasn’t sure how or even if they would become such an integrated part of the work I would be doing in my role. However, I attended the annual Scheme Managers Conference a few weeks after I started in post and not only was there an excellent programme (reflecting the values I’d upheld during my Police career) but I was made to feel part of the family straight away by Sherry & Katie.

QAF, (Quality Assurance Framework), really did derail me though as I started to look at the work required. As well as my recruitment drive, I had a number of other pressing tasks and given that at the time I was only working 2.5 days a week we seriously considered not taking on QAF at all!!!

However, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth and a firm promise of support from Sherry and my Suffolk counterpart Sarah McNulty (with whom we share 2-County custody facilities), I decided to give it a go.

Time was going to be an issue, so it was agreed with Martin that I’d work some extra hours and defer a number of other tasks. There would be some important benefits however. Norfolk clearly had a good scheme and some great ICVs and they deserved the recognition of the QAF award. Also looking back, I now know where every document and every scrap of paper is and I have the most organised set of folders on my computer that you could wish for!!!!

On a more serious note however, whilst we had procedures in place there were some real gaps in policy that would have taken a long time to identify and remedy had it not been for QAF. I am sure that this may be reflected across the country and I know from many conversations I have had with other colleagues, that not every PCC office fully invests in their Schemes and that there are frustrations that they are unable to release the full potential of them as a result.

I’m still staggered that I actually got over the finishing line, but was pleased and proud to do so. Achieving the Code Complaint Level and receiving my award at The House of Lords is right up there for me…certainly on a par with receiving my Police long service medal from the Prince of Wales, (see photos).

As 2019 progressed (post QAF) and I found my feet in my new job, I was pleased to continue to work with ICVA and continue to build positive working relationships. As well as attending the ‘Train the Trainer’ day, I started to find the ICVA members forum a very useful tool for building my own knowledge and even found that I was finally able to start offering advice and share good practice with other colleagues.

I was delighted therefore to be asked to be involved in the official review of QAF based on the feedback from the Schemes. Ahead of a debrief session in London, I spent several weeks working through the documents Sherry sent through, assessing both the good and constructive feedback. That meant we were able to pull together a list of amendments, (for QAF 2), for consultation at the Scheme Managers Conference.

Like many of you, your thoughts may already be turning to the awards for 20/21. I am frantically clearing the decks of some of my longer standing projects such as new translation flashcards, revised report forms and a review of our Scheme Guidelines. I then need to make a determination of which level to aim for. I am hoping for Silver and strive for Gold.

I talked about time constraints earlier and despite now having so much in place for Code Compliant, I still need a massive uplift for the next levels.

As such I remain grateful that my own PCC’s Office has recognised the value QAF, not only to the individual office but most importantly to the volunteers themselves. The work done here in Norfolk has brought a number of important benefits – the introduction of formal support/counselling for ICV’s through EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), better retention of volunteers through improved engagement, support, training, newsletters and introducing a general ‘feel good factor’ around the whole Scheme.

There remains everywhere of course, tight financial restrictions, yet improvements in Schemes need financial support to facilitate improvements. I hope that through QAF and the improvements and benefits it brings, we can see investment everywhere to allow Schemes to develop, improve and demonstrate in their own right that they are more than just a statutory scheme.

Warm Regards

Simon Atherton