Praise for Improvements in Services to Vulnerable
As part of the 2015 PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) inspection, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) looked at all police forces in England Wales in June and July this year to see how effective they are at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims. This included an in-depth consideration of the service offered to victims of domestic abuse.
The inspection looked at four areas:
- How well does the force identify those who are vulnerable and assess their level of risk and need?
- How well does the force respond to vulnerable victims?
- How well does the subsequent police action and work with partners keep victims safe?
- How well does the force respond to and safeguard specific vulnerable groups, and how well prepared is it to tackle child sexual exploitation?
Gwent Police achieved 'Good' ratings in each, with HMIC highlighting that it was 'clear that vulnerability is a high priority the Force' and that the Force is 'effective at supporting victims and protecting from harm those who are vulnerable.'
Gwent Police has received criticism in the past for the way it handled certain domestic abuse cases.
However, HMIC has found that the Force has made improvements since the last domestic abuse inspection and that positive outcomes are apparent, such as the Force now having a prosecution rate for domestic abuse which is greater than the national average. The inspectorate also found that domestic abuse is very clearly a priority for the Force and is clearly important to frontline staff. HMIC are now satisfied that progress is being made.
The report also highlights the role that the Connect Gwent victims' hub, launched by PCC Ian Johnston earlier this year, has played in addressing the needs of victims of crime. Connect Gwent is the first multi-agency service of its kind in Wales and aims to provide positive and lasting support to all victims of crime.
Between April and September 2014, in the year prior to the hub opening, a total of 6,764 victims of crime in Gwent were referred to support services. However, since the hub has been open between April and September 2015, a total of 13,617 victims have been referred to Connect Gwent which means that more than double the victims of crime in Gwent are now accessing this enhanced provision.
Gwent PCC Ian Johnston is responsible for ensuring that victims are consulted and that the most vulnerable individuals are not overlooked. According to the Commissioner, today's report reflects the latest figures which demonstrate an increase in public confidence in Gwent Police and the 'overall satisfaction' of crime victims in the service they receive.
Welcoming the report, Mr Johnston said: "I have been very clear from the outset that we must put victims at the heart of everything we do and I am pleased to have continuously developed my commitment in this area.
It's been a long road but I have witnessed for myself the impressive efforts and the huge amount of work which has been undertaken by the Force, my office and other partners in the community in pulling together a range of projects and initiatives to enhance the quality of service provision for all victims of crime. The implementation of these changes has contributed significantly towards providing more of a victim focussed approach in Gwent and this has translated directly into an improvement in the overall satisfaction of victims of crime in the service they receive.
This report is very good news and a fantastic turnaround when you consider the criticism the Force took a few years ago, how it was graded in this area and the challenging financial climate we have had to work in. I would like to thank everyone for their efforts and whilst the direction of travel continues to improve, the Chief Constable and I both realise that it needs to improve even further and are fully committed to doing so."
Reflecting the Commissioner's comments, Gwent Police Assistant Chief Constable, Julian Williams, said: "Protecting vulnerable people is a key focus for Gwent Police, and the quality of the service we provide to victims is our absolute priority.
Early intervention is key and our officers are well equipped to make the relevant referrals in each case they deal with. The responsibility of this work lies not just with our specialist officers, but with every frontline officer and every member of staff who may come into contact with vulnerable people, and we have invested in providing further training in this area.
We welcome the findings of this HMIC report. We are pleased to see an improvement, but we are in no way complacent. We continue to take steps to improve the service we provide, and work closely with our partner agencies in health, housing and social care to support and protect the most vulnerable in our society, as well as bring perpetrators to justice."
The Head of the Public Protection Unit, Detective Superintendent Ian Roberts added: "We have worked hard with our partners in the Criminal Justice System to improve our end to end process when dealing with vulnerable people and bringing offenders to justice.
At Gwent Police, great emphasis has been placed on the first point of contact victims have with us and training has been delivered in our Force Control Room to ensure that, from the outset, victims are receiving the most appropriate support and any necessary referrals are made. Frontline officers have also received additional training in relation to domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and missing children.
Improvements have also been made to the consistency of risk assessments completed, and there is clear direction and commitment from Chief Officers to retain a strong focus on this area of work which is monitored daily."
He added: "It is essential that victims feel confident to report these type of offences to Gwent Police, and they should be assured that we have the systems in place to take immediate action and to provide any support and guidance necessary."
Key areas of success for Gwent Police highlighted in the report:
- Gwent Police makes good use of information sharing with partner organisations;
- That it was clear that staff are victim-focused and understand the importance of identifying vulnerability;
- The Force is good at identifying repeat and vulnerable victims, and has clear processes in place for assessing risk;
- That staff consider carefully the appropriate level of police response and its officers work well with partners to manage the risk to victims;
- The Force's operational procedures to protect the vulnerable and support victims are considered to be good;
- Gwent Police has worked hard to develop a culture where vulnerability is considered at all points of contact with the public;
- The Force is influential in the development of policy and operational practice in the county's children and adult safeguarding boards.