Posts tagged ‘Home Office’

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.

August 1, 2013

MARAC and Perpetrators

We recently held our first National MARAC Scrutiny Panel, chaired by the Home Office and with attendance from a very wide range of expert practitioners and policy leads.  Although I say it myself, it was a simply fascinating morning.

One the privileges of working for CAADA, is that we get lots of feedback (I mean lots) from local practitioners about ‘what needs to happen’.  Sadly, we still haven’t found the magic wand to make it all happen, but one theme that has been coming through pretty loudly in the past few months, is that the victim focus at MARAC has sometimes meant that, in some areas, the perpetrator has become pretty invisible.  Obviously, without addressing the behaviour of the perpetrator (you know what I am going to say next) we cannot assure the safety of the current victim and children, nor of future partners and their children.

So the aim of the morning was to review a number of cases where the response to the victim had been good, but where the perpetrator had somehow ‘slipped through’. We owe a big thank you to the areas who contributed the cases – not the most comfortable moment to have 20 experts scrutinise your cases, with three times as much time as usual to think in!  We explored a few themes.  Firstly we looked at whether existing powers allow us to address these cases effectively or do we need new measures or policies?  What other practical options can be used to manage perpetrator behaviour?  Can we learn from programmes such as Troubled Families?

We will be publishing more formally our findings and recommendations and will make sure that the very practical conclusions that came from the session are communicated with all of you who attend MARACs through our eNews, website and of course the MARAC Development Officers.  However, some of the headlines included:

  • We need to ensure that relevant and proportionate information about perpetrators is brought to MARAC so that a partners have a clear picture of risk and that the safety plan is comprehensive;
  • The right people need to be round the table.  Without mental health and substance use experts at the meeting, we cannot make effective safety plans.
  • We need to stay really proactive with perpetrators whether by engaging them through an Integrated Offender Management programme, or by what the police call ‘disruption’.  
  • We need to make sure that the links with MAPPA are working well.

More broadly, there were several calls for MARAC to be placed on a statutory footing as participants felt it would help secure attendance and resources for the process.

I really commend the Scrutiny Panel process to you as a great way of reflecting on practice – both for practitioners and strategic leads – stepping back and seeing patterns in our response and allowing us to improve it before there is a tragedy.  We will be publishing more from this panel in the coming weeks and months so please keep an eye on our e-News and website for more details.  We hope to run another one in 6 months, so let me know what theme or issue you think we should look at.

July 15, 2012

Outnumbered….working with MARACs this year

We recently finalised our plans for working with all 260 MARACs across England and Wales this year.  We do feel a bit outnumbered – 260 MARACs, over 55,000 adult cases and 75,000 children’s cases heard annually and a mighty CAADA team of 5 MARAC development officers based around England and Wales – each supporting about 50 MARACs.  A challenge?  Of course.

So how will we make it work? Our plan is to make the most of our assets which we think include:

a)     a full time focus on MARAC activity and information – agency representatives are engaged with their ‘day jobs’,

b)     an overview position – developed from engaging with MARACs across the region and country,

c)      reach – which enables us to disseminate learning points, models of good practice and outcomes to all the MARACs, and

d)     influence – in being able to channel upwards to Government consolidated MARAC information from across the country

Each MARAC Development Officer (MDO in CAADA-speak) will work in several different ways with the MARACs in their region.  Firstly, they will each have a specific time-limited project which can be shared for all MARACs to learn from e.g. reviewing the challenges & successes of referrals for disabled victims and/or minority ethnic victims.  They will also visit the MARACs in their region, and support some in the use of the new CAADA self assessment tool which is currently being piloted.  (Thank you to those MARACs who are part of this pilot).  All will continue to have access to our workshops for IDVAs, Coordinators and Chairs in their region as well as the option of working directly with the MDO on specific issues either arising from practice or policy.

All of this will be complimented by our continued commitment to the use of data to inform this work.  You will be aware of our recent outcome analysis, looking at police data for 350 cases at 15 different MARACs for 12 months pre and post MARAC.  We are now working to develop this further both by extending the number of MARACs where we do the analysis and by adding more agencies to the outcome analysis.  Our MARAC help desk (marac@caada.org.uk ) is available for all practitioners to use.  If we don’t have the answer, we usually can find someone who does. Finally, we hope you have noticed the best practice examples that we are including in our e-newsletter.  These will continue, so please tell us if you feel you are doing something particularly well at your MARAC.  We are also exploring social media as a way of linking MARAC practitioners…but I am not sure that is official yet so I had better stop there!

For more information about the programme, do go to our website at http://www.caada.org.uk/marac/Information_about_MARACs.html

And do please share your best ideas….and if anyone has the answer to rising volume, and complex repeat cases, we would love to hear from you!

November 26, 2011

Does your service or your MARAC support under-18’s experiencing domestic abuse?

The Home Office is considering amending the definition of domestic abuse to include young people between 16-18.  In the latest VAWG newsletter (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/crime/vawg-newsletters/vawg-winter-2011?view=Binary ) they are asking for feedback about the provision of support to young people experiencing domestic abuse – so if your service, IDVA team or MARAC work directly with this age group, please respond by 31st December 2011.

July 4, 2011

Law and Lawyers: For how long can the Police hold me?

The ObiterJ blog has a clear and comprehensible summary of the recent decision by the High Court apparently to reverse 25 years of accepted practice in relation to calculating the amount of expired bail time.  The Guardian reports that an application has been made to the Supreme Court to stay this judgment by means of a private hearing today – 4th July.  It seems extraordinary that we could have worked with one interpretation for so long – and now a decision made by a District Judge, and upheld by the High Court reverses all of that.  It will obviously need to be resolved quickly.

Law and Lawyers: For how long can the Police hold me?.

March 8, 2011

A glimpse at community safety….

Last week I was very privileged to be invited to speak to a group of community safety officers and local authority and police leaders. The Home Office published a ‘New Approach to Fighting Crime’ and the Home Secretary led the conference, supported  by Nick Herbert, Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice and James Brokenshire Minister for Crime Prevention. I was asked to speak on the role that the voluntary sector can play in working in partnership with statutory agencies.

read more »

November 25, 2010

First Post….

25th Nov 2010- Nerve wracking start to blogging but here goes.

We got GOOD NEWS this morning from the Home Office strategy to address Violence against Women and Girls.  Key points include a clear prioritisation of high risk victims, emphasis on MARAC and a 4 year commitment to funding.  Our view has long been that high risk cases are an area which is clearly one which government needs to address, and that without joining up specialist services with universal services, victims will not get effective help.  And a four year commitment to funding is a real step forward.  What will fundraisers do for the 3 months of the year that they used to spend writing applications?!

Also, importantly the clear focus and medium term commitment gives us all time to plan.  There is lots to be done to ensure that victims are identified earlier, that quality of provision becomes more consistent and that funding is clearly linked to outcomes.  It leaves many questions unanswered in terms of wider domestic abuse services which remain dependent on local funding decisions – but at a time of considerable cutbacks, this is a strong statement about the importance of the work that we all are part of.

I did two TV interviews this morning (will try and find the links and post them).  Main focus of questioning was on GO orders.  These will be piloted next summer in 3 areas.  Our reservations are threefold:

a. will there be immediate provision of support services for victims during the GO order period?

b. will officers be clear when to use them?  Is there a risk that criminal behaviour is ‘downgraded’?

c. is it enforceable to make someone homeless who has not committed a crime?

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