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Public accountability meeting – 8 April 2022 – HMICFRS – Child Protection

This meeting will focus on North Yorkshire Police’s response to HMICFRS's National Child Protection Inspection of North Yorkshire Police.

When is this meeting?

  • Friday 8 April 2022.
  • Starts at 10.00am.
  • Ends at 11.00am.

To ask a question:

  • In advance of the meeting, please send your question to info@northyorkshire-pfcc.gov.uk please include your name and address with your question.
  • To ask a question during the meeting using Twitter, include #NYscrutiny in your tweet. 

Attendees:

  • Commissioner Zoë
  • Simon Dennis – Chief Executive Officer, Office of the PFCC
  • Jenni Newberry – Head of Commissioning & Partnerships, Office of the PFCC
  • Caroline Blackburn – Interim Assistant Chief Executive, Office of the PFCC
  • Lisa Winward – Chief Constable, North Yorkshire Police
  • Mabs Hussain – Deputy Chief Constable, North Yorkshire Police
  • Lindsey Butterfield – Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, North Yorkshire Police

Agenda:

  • 10:00 – Welcome and purpose of Public Accountability Meeting – Commissioner Zoë.
  • 10:05 – National Child Protection Inspection report overview and comment – Chief Constable Lisa Winward.
  • 10:10 – Update on the approach, structure, recommendations and response.
  • 10:15 – Presentation on National Child Protection Inspection report recommendations, key activities and next steps – Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Lindsey Butterfield.
  • 10:35 – Questions.
  • 10:50 – Access to Commissioned support service – Commissioner Zoë, Jenni Newberry10:55 – Thanks and Close – Commissioner Zoë.

Meeting papers

To watch the live broadcast

Questions

Mr Cook – Harrogate

Julia Mulligan commissioned IDAS to review the court system and CAFCASS. The report was broadly consistent with other reports in that area, and found that there were failings, especially around exposing women to their abuser. Please can we have an update on the recommendations and any developments in this area?

Below are a number of updates in relation to the key recommendations:
One of the key outcomes of the work linked to the report is the IDAS developed ‘Understanding the Family Court’ website. The website aims to help people understand how the Family Court works and what can be done to keep parents and children safe (including a directory of local solicitors). The website also provides a number of videos to support those going through the Family Court process: Family courts and domestic abuse – Advice about family courts and a searchable directory of local solicitors who can help you (idas.org.uk)

  • Recommendations – Support for people attending court, including Legal Aid and Litigants in Person. (local)
    Considering the restrictions to the provision of Legal Aid, local partners should consider how they can support the development of a network of pro-bono solicitors who can assist LiPs who are particularly vulnerable. The work of YorLaw is limited to residents of York, there is no similar project in other areas of North Yorkshire.
    The Clock Project is where universities, law firms, barrister chambers, mediation, charitable and court services contribute their time to educate, assist, monitor and promote access to justice has been extended to cover York and North Yorkshire and is also available online. In addition Citizens Advice have secured funding to provide pro-bono support and YorLaw has also taken on additional solicitors to provide pro-bono work. The link to the Clock page is available here: CLOCK – Home Page
    A Domestic Abuse & Family Court working group has been convened and is currently chaired by an IDAS representative reporting into the Domestic Abuse Joint Coordinating Group (DAJCG) which is chaired by the Head of Safer Communities. The group supports the development of the CLOCK project and has a range of additional objectives agreed by its members, including reviewing and addressing the training needs of stakeholders involved in Family Court. This working group should also feed into the Local Family Justice Board (LFJB). Since writing this report, the LFJB have proposed a domestic abuse subgroup. It has been proposed that the working group established as part of this project reports in to both the DAJCG and the LFJB as a subgroup of the LFJB.
    The Domestic Abuse & Family Court working group continue to meet quarterly and have recently discussed benchmarking risk assessment processes across agencies as well as reviewing cases. The next meeting is at the end of April. The working group has recently revised its aims and objectives and have produced a table that outlines what has been achieved and the work still ongoing. We will look to share this detailed update information moving forward.
  • Recommendations – Domestic Abuse best practice. (Local)
    Partners to agree a suite of data which can be obtained locally to provide an insight into the effectiveness of the safeguarding of survivors and their children involved in family court proceedings. This could include the number of orders and injunctions, arrests for breaches and prosecutions. Additionally, information could be shared about the safeguarding checks, including the number of EIT calls made, reports requested from Police. Also, information about the number of orders returning for enforcement and under what grounds, the number of cases where domestic abuse is a factor (not proven) where finding of facts have taken place and where cases have been prevented from coming back to court because the system is being abused. It would also be useful to share data on perpetrator programmes so the effectiveness of these could be more widely known.
    In November 2021 the Domestic Abuse Commissioner put forward their proposal for a mechanism to monitor and report on domestic abuse in private law children proceedings within the report ‘Improving the family court response to domestic abuse’. The pilot phase of the mechanism is due to commence late Spring 2022. Improving the Family Court response to domestic abuse – Domestic Abuse Commissioner
  • Civil and Criminal. (National)
    A nationwide system for recording and flagging protective orders to improve safeguarding of victims and survivors and enable Police officers to more effectively respond to breaches.
    Project Shield is the North Yorkshire and City of York pilot to improve the Criminal Justice System’s response to non-molestation orders issued to protect victims of domestic abuse. The pilot uses the Police National Database to record and flag non-molestation orders. Edge Hill University are currently undertaking an evaluation of the pilot. Early notification of non-molestation orders for the purposes of Project Shield has been authorised with a specific practice direction from the President of the Family Courts, the hope is that the success of the pilot will see this rolled out nationally to plug the safeguarding gap between a victim-survivor obtaining an order and the respondent and police being served with a copy. Project Shield has been discussed at NPCC level and leads are considering taking it national to improve recording and enforcement of non-molestation orders. Further information on this is available here:  North Yorkshire Police and IDAS, in partnership with HMCTS, Edge Hill University and CGI, lead seminar to address domestic abuse. | North Yorkshire Police

North Yorkshire previously had the PVPU (Protection of vulnerable persons unit). The work was taken up by the broader CID work, but this was a specialist unit, are there any plans to re-open the unit?  

PVP units were merged with CID teams in 2014 to meet the rising demand for safeguarding investigations. Whilst PVP teams were disbanded, the specialist skills were not lost and are now embedded within our CID teams. NYP are not currently planning to reintroduce PVP units, and we must be mindful of the possibility of gaps being created in other teams staffed by detectives if we were to reintroduce them now. NYP does however, constantly review its structures and services to provide the best possible service to the public. CID and PVPU’s will be kept under constant review and consideration.

There is a system in place where a school should be notified if the police attend a family home, I don’t believe this system is working well. Please could I have an update on this system? 

Operation Encompass is a police and education partnership promoting early intervention by sharing safeguarding information to enable the right support at the right time for children experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Children exposed to domestic abuse are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. Having been exposed to domestic violence, a child attending school the next day will often be requiring urgent emotional help and assurance but might be unable to express what they have witnessed and the support they need.

The expected standard is that schools will receive notifications prior to the start of the school day. NYP always aim to meet this target and are committed to it. There are occasions where this in not possible due to operational constraints but we work hard to meet our obligations and to ensure all children experiencing domestic abuse receive timely support in their school.

In ongoing child protection cases, the police don’t contribute well to the Child Protection Order review meetings, how can they work in a more integrated way with Social Services? 

It is important to distinguish between two types of meetings here. The Initial Child Protection Conferences (ICPC’s)and Review Child Protection Conferences (RCPC’s).

Initial Child Protection Conferences are attended, and NYP have an excellent attendance rate from within our Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) supported by a written police report.

In the case of Review Child Protection Conferences, we would consistently provide a written report in support of the meeting but do not attend routinely, unless specifically required to do so by Children’s Social Care.

Please could I have an update on how officers are being made more aware of women living in coercive controlling relationships? 

The Serious Crime act was introduced in 2015 and outlined the offence of Coercive and controlling behaviour. Since then, NYP has rolled out training to our staff and have ensured that our staff are fully aware of the powers available to them so as they best protect victims of domestic violence. We are also working closely with partners and charities to ensure that what we deliver to our teams is still relevant and have placed more supervisory oversite of the management of domestic incident. This is to ensure that the correct level of experience and support is provided to officers to ensure that they can perform their duties in the way that the public would expect.

What are the guidelines employed when an officer undertakes a welfare check, currently it is very subjective? 

Officers receive extensive training on recognising and managing the complex needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Welfare checks can take many forms, but officers are trained to look beyond the obvious and ask probing questions to try and ascertain the full extent of the situation that they may be faced with. We in North Yorkshire are further developing this training in response to the most recent HMIC inspection. We will now provide further training to our staff in listening and recording the voice of the child so as we can best protect the most vulnerable members of our community. We have also created a Pathways App so as our staff can quickly and easily find the right agencies to support the individual going forward.

North Yorkshire Youth Commission members

  • How will you be involving young people, especially those who have been let down by the service, and also ensure that their voices and experiences are heard? (Lulu – 15)
  • Will officers on the frontline all get further safeguarding training? If so, when will they have it and will another review be done of NYP safeguarding practices in a few months so we know change is actually happening? (Ben – 18)

Kelly

  • How are the considerations for reporting of crimes going to change? How can the evidence required to warrant an effective report to CPS be changed, so that it is not so strict for reporting abuse and trauma for medical and other working professionals?

Commissioner responds to National Child Protection Inspection of North Yorkshire Police

North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoë Metcalfe has responded to the National Child Protection Inspection of North Yorkshire Police, conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, which has been published today, Tuesday 29 March.

Commissioner Zoë said:

“All children deserve to grow up in a safe environment, cared for and protected from harm. But too many do not, and our police forces have an important role in identifying those who are vulnerable, protecting them and meeting their needs. That is why we need to be candid in acknowledging that what this report has found is unacceptable.

“It is clear that sometimes not enough has been done to ensure that North Yorkshire Police can show that vulnerable children are as protected as they should be in North Yorkshire and York, and all too often the failings come despite the best efforts of those who have a policing role to safeguard them.

“As a new Commissioner, now responsible for scrutinising the work of the North Yorkshire Police, that is a serious concern. I know that is a view shared by the force’s leadership, and I am sure it will be a concern across the organisation and beyond.

“It is important to note that the report does say there is evidence that improvements were underway in November 2021 when the inspection took place, and I have been assured those have continued at pace, so many of the issues identified are now in the process of being addressed. Measures are in place to ensure there is a robust framework in place to track and review this progress. I and my team will closely monitor and review what happens next.

“I have also met with local authority partners who have offered their full support to North Yorkshire Police in addressing the report’s findings and ensuring that children are kept safe in the city and the county. North Yorkshire Police have also set out their commitment to me to ensure officers and staff are provided with the skills, capability and capacity to do their job well.

“I think it is important that the findings of this inspection are not seen as a reflection on individual North Yorkshire Police officers and staff and the important roles they undertake every day. Indeed, the Inspectors noted this, saying ‘we found that the officers and staff who manage child abuse investigations are committed and dedicated, while often working in difficult circumstances’.

“However, one issue is one issue too many in child protection where every interaction counts, and every moment matters, so I have asked the Chief Constable to urgently assess what more can be done to address the recommendations made and ensure officers and staff at every level understand their responsibilities.

“We must do better to safeguard those children who are at risk, and I will not rest until we do.”