One of my favourite things is watching colleagues blossom. Seeing others reach for an ambitious target, being bold and brave whilst also conscious that they might not reach their goal.
This year has been a brilliant year for that. Here at ICVA HQ, we have watched our schemes make ambitious commitments and strive to meet them as they have completed their Quality Assurance Framework assessments. I am beyond proud to have seen schemes work together, share their work and meet their potential.
The Quality Assurance Framework (or the QAF, as it’s lovingly known) is a tool that outlines what quality independent custody visiting schemes should look like with a range of levels from Code Compliant to Silver, Gold and then Platinum.
Independent Custody Visiting Schemes bring together local volunteers under the guidance of a scheme manager working for either a Police and Crime Commissioner or Police Authority. Volunteers make unannounced visits to police stations to check on the welfare of detainees and report back any issues to be resolved. Although independent custody visiting is a statutory duty for PCCs and police authorities, what this actually looks like varies considerably across schemes. Scheme managers are often the sole member of staff in their office working on area and they wanted to have more consistency across the UK. We also wanted to think about what a good scheme practically looks like on the ground.
ICVA therefore kicked off work on a Quality Assurance Framework (or QAF) now some years back. We spoke to scheme managers and friends about what this should be. Borrowing from experience and from scheme manager feedback, we developed a range of levels and described what a scheme should look like and asked schemes to provide evidence that they meet each level. The Quality Assurance Framework covers a number of areas:
- Recruiting and training,
- Managing volunteers,
- Holding the force to account,
- Transparency and public reassurance,
- Detainee welfare, and
- Investing in and supporting scheme managers.
The QAF starts at Code Compliant level – a level based on the Code of Practice for Independent Custody Visiting. I will stress that this is an ambitious standard to meet. Scheme managers often combine this role with others. They recruit and manage large numbers of volunteers, oversee normally weekly visits to each custody suite, deal with any feedback, work with the police to resolve problems and work to ensure that police custody is safe and dignified. We, at ICVA, also ask a fair bit from scheme managers, using their findings to inform national and international work on detention. We also ask scheme managers to look at particular issues, take part in research, progress recommendations, respond to inspections and more. It’s a big and responsible job and I have deep respect for all scheme managers who meet the Code. I am delighted that around half of our schemes have met this standard. It’s a big achievement and one that I am glad to celebrate with them.
The remaining schemes set their sights on silver, gold or platinum level. This means going above and beyond to deliver particular high standards. At silver level, scheme managers developed detailed training plans for their volunteers and run governance processes that enshrine police engagement and buy in to resolving difficult issues. On the ground, ICVs spend longer looking at custody records of detainees and focusing further on detainee welfare.
Gold schemes sought to work with other schemes, to share learning and avoid duplication. They proactively share their work with the public and spend time exploring and responding to national issues highlighted by ICVA. The two schemes who achieved platinum level showed exceptional proactive work and we were delighted to see PCCs accompanying ICVs on out of hours visits to custody.
The Quality Assurance Framework has cemented and driven up standards in independent custody visiting. I am incredibly proud of scheme managers, Police and Crime Commissioners, Police Authorities and of course the ICVs who have made it work. It has been a delight to see them strive to achieve their level. It’s also been fantastic to see peer schemes work. We came together to define what a great scheme looks like. Scheme managers assessed each other’s work through a peer assessment scheme, building new relationships and sharing good practice.
Independent custody visiting is stronger for the Quality Assurance Framework and whether schemes are collecting awards for Code Compliant, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels, we are proud to celebrate your achievements with schemes and look forward to moving onwards to the next challenge.