Our blog has been quite quiet of late. It has been a very busy time for all matters custody with the Children’s Concordat, Mental Health Act Regulations and the launch of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody. We have been expecting these changes and have been excited to release new training material and support to our schemes. If you haven’t already seen it, please take a look at Inspector Michael Brown’s video explaining changes to the Mental Health Act. Members, please log on to the members’ website to take a look around the new training material.
Amongst the excitement of these announcements, I spent last week battling trains and visiting schemes. I often work alone and really value the opportunity to get out and about in custody and to meet our members and volunteers. I’ve particularly enjoyed engaging with the Gloucestershire scheme via one of their scheme managers, Amanda, on our Twitter account. Amanda is a real champion of ICVA and a kindred spirit. She is immersed in all things criminal justice and we had a good chat about the court process as she drove me from the station to the OPCC. She is also early to like tweets and generally just a great colleague, it always cheers me up to hear from her. I was delighted to meet with her alongside her counterpart, Ruth, their co-ordinator Judith, their ACC and PCC, Martin Surl, as well as the wider custody staff.
I have a feeling that I was invited to marvel at their custody suite. It was fantastic, as suites go. Private booking in areas, clean cells, calm, all the facilities you’d hope for on site and a suite manager who was happy and proud to promote the suite and his work. Lots of natural light, lots of staff, lots of space for the staff to work with their partners. If anyone reading this would like to see a modern suite, I recommend a visit.
However, the suite really was not the most impressive aspect of the visit. I was really bowled over by the sense of a team, and their determination to improve custody and to link it to wider work. Ruth and Amanda form the OPCC’s policy team and have taken over the scheme relatively recently. Their position and attitude has resulted in great steps forward. I was so impressed with the dedication of their new Co-ordinator. I also witnessed the benefits of housing custody visiting within a policy unit. Amanda and Ruth were clearly well known and valued within the force Chief Officer Group and could link issues in custody to wider challenges and work that were underway. Martin Surl, PCC for Gloucestershire, has set a vision for compassion and caring; Amanda, Ruth, Martin, Judith, everyone could see the role that custody visiting played in this. They are positioned brilliantly to make effective change and their dedication and leadership, as well as that of the PCC, delighted me. Again, if any office is seeking to review how they can ensure custody visiting makes a difference, I recommend getting in touch with their office.
The theme of impressive leadership continued as I visited Derbyshire. I have been in conversation with their Inspector, Katie, and scheme manager, Liz, for some time, seeking to discuss ideas. The scheme is having a bit of an existential review – considering its purpose, how it can be used to best effect and how it can respond to a focus on vulnerability. It is a perfect time to consider such questions as the Independent Review has revealed some unpalatable truths and we need to respond.
I was delighted to receive my second enthusiastic welcome from a PCC in a week with Hardyal Dhindsa. Derbyshire’s Commissioner was equally clear that he wants to lead an effective scheme and that he deeply values his volunteers and the service they provide. We discussed some new ideas and planned out some exciting reforms. I’m not yet able to share these wider as the ideas develop, but I am thrilled with them. I feel that the Inspector, PCC and scheme manager have come together to really question what they can do to help vulnerable people in custody, to ensure that those in mental health crisis and children are not in police custody. Watch this space.
I enjoy spending time in custody. I feel as if I have a map of the UK in my mind, able to picture the various custody suites across the territory. That’s really important, I simply could not represent schemes equally without that experience. My visits are now moving beyond this. I’m working with schemes to understand not only what is going on in custody, but how we can use our shared work to best effect. This is a brilliant phase of my time in ICVA and I am delighted to be working with such fantastic colleagues. The visits could not have been more timely. The Independent Review makes it clear that there is work to be done; we are in a position to help it happen. More importantly, we are working with brilliant leaders on the ground who can make it happen. I cannot think of a better reason to get up for work in the morning.