‘I would just like to say that I found the QAF process well-structured. I printed off the criteria which enabled me to work towards every objective, ensuring I had sufficient evidence built up in time for the assessment. West Mercia have achieved their first silver award, and this has been thanks to the ease of direction from ICVA. The criteria also enables me as a Scheme manager to feel confident and focused on what a good ICV scheme looks like’.
Independent Custody Visiting Schemes are run by Police and Crime Commissioners, Mayors, The Scottish Police Authority and the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Arising after riots in the 80s centred around public distrust in policing, and in particular the policing of black communities, independent custody visitors (or ICVs) are volunteers who give their time to make unannounced visits to police custody across the UK, ensuring the rights, entitlements and wellbeing of detainees throughout the country.
This week, we were incredibly excited to be celebrating the independent custody visiting schemes achievements in the 2023 Quality Assurance Framework! The Quality Assurance Framework (or QAF for short) was first run by ICVA with schemes in 2019 and is a framework for the locally run schemes to help them to:
- Reflect on how they comply with the Code of Practice, the legislation that underpins custody visiting.
- Celebrate areas of strength.
- Promote custody visiting and the achievements they have made.
- Drive up performance of schemes.
- Increase sharing of good practice and resources across schemes.
We have blogged on the detail of The QAF and how it has come into being before, and you can read that here, but in short we have four levels that schemes can attain:
- Code Compliant – Schemes meet the statutory requirements of the Code of Practice.
- Silver – Schemes have a good standard of custody visiting.
- Gold – Schemes have an excellent standard of custody visiting.
- Platinum – Schemes have an outstanding standard of custody visiting.
Additionally, schemes must assess and provide evidence for a host of criteria under the themes of recruitment and training, managing volunteers, communications, holding the force to account, transparency and public reassurance and detainee welfare. Each area has several criteria for schemes to meet, the higher the level, the more criteria they need to meet in order to attain it.
ICVs raise issues where they find them, feedback areas of good practice, and report back to the Police and Crime Commissioner (or equivalent body) on their findings, providing monitoring of police custody to effectively hold the police to account for this often hidden and high-pressure area of policing.
Schemes need to complete each criteria under each level before moving on to the next. All levels require self-assessment and sign off from line managers. When going for Gold or Silver, ICVA dip sampling will take place as well and for Platinum, all evidence is dip sampled and assessed by ICVA.
In 2019 we were delighted that all schemes in England, Wales and Scotland took part, and this year we have welcomed Northern Ireland as well with only one scheme not able to take part in this round of awards. Schemes have been working on the QAF for 18 months (the previous QAF ran for a year but when launched schemes were still in a period of adjusting after the pandemic) and have been making amends to processes, recruiting and training volunteers, reaching out to communities, assessing their practices and a whole host of other activities during this time.
ICVA is not able to mandate completion of the QAF at any level, so to have so many of our members working so hard to demonstrate the effectiveness of their scheme, really pushing on issues such as diverse recruitment, public reassurance and communicating the findings of their scheme is an incredible achievement on their part. We want to say a massive thank you to all of our schemes for their incredibly hard work, good will and also a huge well done on their achievements, we couldn’t be prouder of our members!
We asked schemes to reflect on their experience of undertaking the QAF:
Northamptonshire Scheme Manager, Alexa Daly said: “It has been a really useful exercise to review our local practices for our Independent Custody Visiting Scheme. Checking against criteria has enabled me to reflect on how we comply with the legislation that underpins custody visiting, and how much good practice we endorse, providing that extra bit of confidence that we are maintaining an effective scheme in Northamptonshire.”
Claire Taylor from Sussex OPCC said “We are delighted that ICVA have a quality assurance framework which recognises the outstanding contribution and achievements of our independent monitoring processes. The framework scrutinises our practice in many areas, ensures we are performing at the highest level and achieving the best outcomes for vulnerable detainees in police custody”.
Beth, Scheme Manager from Bedfordshire commented: ‘“Undertaking the Quality Assurance Framework as Scheme Manager for Bedfordshire has been a great experience as it has allowed our scheme and custody visitors to reflect on how we comply with the Code of Practice. We have been able to positively highlight and celebrate key areas of strength within our scheme, although it has required a lot of hard work, dedication and most importantly patience. As Scheme Manager, I am so grateful to of received consistent support from the ICVA and I am very pleased that we have been able to work our way up from Code Compliant to achieving Platinum level”.
Kirsty Scott, National Manager Independent Custody Visiting Scotland said: “The ICVA QAF was daunting at first, despite previously completing and achieving Silver. I thought how am I going to get all this evidence submitted with other work commitments, should I just achieve silver again or be more ambitious and try reach for GOLD? I was lucky enough to get help from the wider team and set myself a target of completing a level per day. There were challenges along the way as some areas I was unsure if we could meet these, however with the support of ICVA I was able to develop new policies and update old ones, I have since set myself new targets for the coming year as the QAF provided a great platform for ensuring the scheme is running to a high standard out with the award process.
I am beyond proud of my team of regional coordinators and all our Independent Custody Visitors in Scotland they are so passionate about what they do, and now that we have reached such an ambitious target of Gold for such a large scheme it provides us with the right tools to develop further and help ICVS constantly evolve to ensure the rights, entitlements and dignity of persons in custody are being adhered to”.
 Devon and Cornwall were not able to take part in 2023.