Archive for September, 2013

September 22, 2013

As we say on Twitter ﹟NeverDullinHull

Some of you might be thinking about the football match against Newcastle yesterday…but I am referring to my visit to Hull last week to meet the Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Grove and his team, including Deputy PCC, Paul Robinson.  I left with three thoughts.

Firstly, I was really struck by the strength of leadership and commitment to this issue from the PCC.  There is an energy in Matthew’s approach and an openness to new ideas and approaches which is great.  I contrast his comments which ran something along the lines of: “Domestic abuse has to be the issue that we can get everyone united around – it is just obvious – look at the human and financial costs,” with the description I was given of domestic abuse by someone when I started CAADA which was more like: “The biggest human issue that is impossible to get support for.”  We really need leaders among the new local and regional commissioners who share his focus and ability to connect the impact of domestic abuse with so many other related issues – and the need to address them for victims, for children and for perpetrators.

The second thought was about the multi-agency team including IDVAs, a duty team, police, children’s services, alcohol misuse specialist, health practitioner, MARAC coordinator and male victim service.  All in one room.  How many other places in the UK have all those disciplines (and I am sure that I have forgotten someone), all in one room.  Hardly a radical concept you might think given the co-morbidity of domestic abuse with these other issues, but I would guess that I could count such teams on the fingers of both hands – and possibly just one.  Again, I suspect that there has been some great local leadership to make this happen, including from the terrific Domestic Violence Coordinator.

Finally, there is a real commitment in Hull to engage with perpetrators of domestic abuse to address their behaviour through the Strength to Change programme which takes self referrals from men who use violence and abuse against their partners.  This programme uses a combination of individual sessions and group sessions to help men change their behaviour.  It will be very interesting to see how this develops as the programme is evaluated in future, and indeed whether this can be used for wider forms of violence.  The data from the initial evaluation highlights both the experiences of the men on the programme (roughly half were care leavers and 60% had been victims of violent crime and the different levels of engagement depending on a range of variables, including employment and children.

Hull in particular, and Humberside more broadly, are not easy areas to work in when it comes to domestic abuse.  However, with strong leadership at several levels, it is clear that the commitment and skill of front line practitioners can be channeled to great effect.  So all we need to find now is a magic wand for cloning….

September 9, 2013

APPG – All Pretty Pessimistic (and) Gloomy

I attended the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) this afternoon which focused on commissioning and the impact of localism on the VAWG sector.  Chaired by Bridget Phillipson, MP, we had three excellent presentations from Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid, Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid and Anthony Wills, CEO of Standing Together.  Polly reminded us of the Government’s commitment to strengthening the commissioning framework and improving support for women and girls locally.  The picture that all three painted of what is happening in practice seemed a far cry from this.

The themes that emerged included the fact that many parts of the sector didn’t have the capacity to respond to the new commissioning requirements with often inconsistent standards and outcome frameworks, small specialist organisations and the need for them to have pretty sophisticated business development teams which simply don’t exist widely.  Concerns were expressed about too much focus on high risk at the expense of early intervention and long term support.  [It will amaze you to know, that we don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive – see previous blogs on Themis].  Other points included a lack of input from service users, the loss of self help and activism and the loss of former service users ending up working in, and often leading, specialist services as generic providers win contracts. All the speakers rightly stressed the importance of specialist services and were worried that commissioning processes often ended up with the wrong provider winning the contract with too much focus on cost versus quality.  There was a call for a commissioning framework for the sector, and for longer term contracts as well as clear and simple indicators and outcome measures.  The tone of the meeting was indeed APPG, All Pretty Pessimistic and Gloomy.

Probably the most positive part of the meeting was the call for our sector to speak with one voice on these issues.  We certainly would like to see this happen.

Within CAADA we are trying to address some of these points as they relate to IDVA provision in particular, but also more widely to build the evidence base for other services to demonstrate their impact.   Our Shared Insights – Shared Outcomes programme aims to link specialist providers with their local commissioner(s) to ensure that these specialisms are not lost, their value is quantified and the experience of service users drives decisions by commissioners, service managers and practitioners.  We can provide output and outcome data for all the key community based services that are delivered by specialist providers.  If you think that this might be useful to your service, please see http://www.caada.org.uk/commissioners/Insights-for-commissioners.html

Similarly, we are starting to develop materials for commissioners so that they can commission to the standards that we would all hope to see.  You can help us by making sure that your local commissioner is aware of these and please contact us if you think we can support you in this area.  There is more information about this at http://www.caada.org.uk/commissioners/information-for-commissioners.html

Finally, we believe our Leading Lights accreditation provides IDVA services with independent verification of the quality of their provision and demonstrates this objectively to commissioners.

We share the deep concerns expressed by all attending the meeting about what is happening with commissioning in some areas and certainly would love to see the whole sector advocate for a model of support that includes both immediate practical help and longer term therapeutic support for victims and their children.  We really don’t feel that it is an either/or debate between high risk and other services, but rather that we should all be pulling in one direction to create a model that delivers safety and well being outcomes as well genuine value for money with a relentless focus on earlier intervention.  So would that be a different sort of APPG? A Possible Path to Growth?  Maybe that is stretching things too far….

September 8, 2013

Just Imagine…

…That you are the Chief Inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

How would you respond to the Home Secretary’s announcement of an inspection by HMIC on standards of policing domestic violence in England and Wales?  In particular she has asked the Chief Inspector to focus on:

  • the effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and abuse, focusing on the outcomes for victims;
  • whether risks to victims of domestic violence and abuse are adequately managed;
  • identifying lessons learnt from how the police approach domestic violence and abuse;
  • making any necessary recommendations in relation to these findings when considered alongside current practice.

I will set out some thoughts over the coming weeks- but would love to hear yours first.

I think that the last thematic inspection by HMIC (someone is going to tell me I am wrong) was in 2004 together with the CPS inspectorate, the HMCPSI.  This inspection looked at the ‘care pathway’ from first police callout through to the end of a court case.  I quickly re-read parts of their report and a few things struck me.  Firstly, there are phrases which sadly still resonate with all of us today.  For me one big theme remains about the quality of leadership and implementation.  For example, “many police forces have appropriate policies…however, in practice implementation is far from universal.”  In a similar vein, “Inspectors came across considerable amounts of good practice and good work in the Areas visited….Overall, the priority given to domestic violence locally was variable and depended heavily upon local initiatives and commitment.” Plus ça change….

The report also called for local Chief Constables, Chief Crown Prosecutors and Local Criminal Justice Boards to develop effective performance management arrangements.  We have seen real progress in this regard from the CPS but perhaps less consistently from the police, perhaps in part reflecting the challenge of achieving this focus across so many forces.

Secondly, I was struck by what wasn’t mentioned in the 2004 report.  There is no mention of course of either the work of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) or Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences – since neither really existed other than in a very few local areas at that time.  The spirit of the 2004 report is one of the criminal justice system working much more in isolation than today, with only limited references to the need to liaise with support agencies such as Victim Support and local Women’s Aid services.  This looks very different today with MARACs operating in every area of England and Wales, IDVAs supporting victims through the court process and at MARAC, and now with the growing introduction of Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH).  However, before we get too smug, we need to remember the conclusions of the HMIC team in Essex recently who wrote: “We found poor communication between those providing victim care, investigators and voluntary sector support workers.”  So no chance of retiring just yet.

Let me know what you think the answers to the Home Secretary’s questions might be.  I definitely believe that they should include a mix of practical recommendations around multi agency work and MARAC, in particular with links to specialist support for victims.  We also need a focus not only on consistency, quality, accountability and leadership, but also we should highlight the need for solid evidence.  This can be used not only to identify best practice, but also to keep learning.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was clear evidence for every Force of both safety and justice outcomes that was produced annually which allowed us, not to take a snapshot of practice once every 10 years, but rather drove a focus on constant, practical, realistic improvement?  Evidence which could be used by every PCC and Chief Constable to inform their response?  And most crucially, evidence that would start to bring down the rates of repeat victimisation, shorten the time that victims suffer before they call the police and reduce the risk that they, and their children, face.  Without this, the police response risks remaining too reactive when there is a real opportunity to take a much more positive approach.