Guest Blog – Recruiting new volunteers in West Mercia


January 31, 2020

Guest blog - OPCC for West Mercia

  • partnership
  • Training
  • volunteers

Hi, I’ve been in post for just over a year and I manage the West Mercia ICV Scheme. One of the first things that struck me when I started was how welcoming everyone was. I’d spoken to Sherry at ICVA within a few days and my team and manager were really helpful and friendly. The next thing I noticed was how different the role was between different forces. I think with the exception of a very rare few, I am the only person in a stand alone post managing an ICV scheme. Everyone else seems to do the job as either an add-on to another role, or share it with another person in their PCC’s office.

I am fortunate to have a detailed knowledge of PACE, the Codes of Practice and the College of Policing App around custody. This has definitely helped when linking in between ICVs and the police, and in understanding the specific issues that ICVs will encounter within a custody environment. It has also helped that our PCC is really enthusiastic about the ICV scheme and is really knowledgeable about custody visiting.

Amongst the things that needed attention in our scheme when I started was recruitment. We should have a total of about 55 ICVs and were about 25% under strength this time last year. We have 4 panels across the force area and 2 of them were down to around 50% strength. Both panels were managing to maintain visits, but the ICVs were having to complete twice as many visits as they had been expected to do. At this time I was very grateful for the support and advice I received from the scheme managers in my neighbouring forces, Zeynab in Warwickshire and Amanda in Gloucestershire. I also had a great day down at Gloucestershire where amongst other things I tagged along at a regional scheme managers meeting, proudly borrowing lots of ideas and resources! I think that there is a really friendly and collaborative approach across the country between scheme managers, which has been fostered by ICVA. I have honestly never worked in an environment where everyone is not only helpful, but willing to share their ideas and resources, in fact in my other jobs it has tended to be the opposite, with people behaving parochially and keeping their work to themselves!

Our Communications and Engagement team in the PCC’s office then did a great job for me in helping to tailor recruitment around the most under strength panels. After me amending some of our recruitment documentation, they dealt with the publicity side of things via our website, social media and the local press. I then went on holiday for a couple of weeks and came back to a pile of applications on my desk which was very impressive. Interestingly most of the applications had come via local papers.

After a period of 3-4 months the process of interviewing, vetting and inducting took place, and at the end we had 11 new ICVs. The procedure was new to me, also there were a lot of admin type things to sort out such as booking the training school, generating ID cards and arranging the really important things like refreshments and lunch via the force’s customer services!  I was glad in the interim that I managed to attend an ICVA Train the Trainer course. This along with the excellent training manuals that ICVA have produced, was a massive help in inducting our new starters. I was also really grateful to Anna at Dorset for sharing her induction training presentation with me. I ran 2 sessions on a Saturday and had a panel co-ordinator present at each one to assist. On the first one I managed to set the intruder alarm off for the training school, no one had told me it was alarmed at the weekend and I spent a few minutes shouting over the phone to the force control room about how it was nothing to worry about! That said both days went really well, I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about and we had enough crisps to feed the force.

Of course by then we had had some ICVs retire from another panel, which needed recruiting to. Our new Policy Intern had some very useful contacts with lecturers in Criminology and Policing at the University of Worcester. I met with them, and they agreed to let me talk about custody visiting to new undergraduate students. As a result we have recently inducted a further 4 ICVs via the University. Our scheme has benefited by improving its diversity, and the students gain experience by being able to evidence skills such as effective communication, holding equality in high regard, demonstrating an impartial and independent viewpoint, and being comfortable in challenging authority where appropriate. This was a really useful collaboration which I hope to be able to continue in the future.

Moving forward I hope to get some expressions of interest from prospective ICVs for any forthcoming vacancies in the scheme so we have a number of reserves available, hopefully expediting the recruitment process.

My advice to any new scheme managers would be that although you may not have had to do anything like this before don’t worry as there is a huge amount of resources and support available to you from both Katie and Sherry at ICVA, your peers and your colleagues in your PCC offices.