ICVA’s Annual General Meeting is approaching. This will represent my first, full financial year as Chief Executive. I have been in post for almost 19 months now and they have just flown by. It has been challenging, fun, enlightening and many other things. I have been reflecting on achievements past and the year ahead when drafting the annual report and wanted to write an interim blog before we publish the final version. This will let you have a bit of a peak under the bonnet to see what ICVA has been up to.

2016/17 was a watershed year for ICVA. A new leadership team came into being as our Chair recruited me and shortly thereafter, a cut to our grant meant that our staff were restructured. Sherry came into post and we set about understanding how we could fulfill our role on a tight budget. I used to work for a police authority and my Chair there repeatedly talked about “bang for the buck” and we certainly needed to make sure that every penny counted and delivered value. Outside of ICVA, there has been a national focus on custody with key stakeholders such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission and National Appropriate Adult Network releasing and implementing major studies on use of force and availability of Appropriate Adults. Furthermore, Dame Elish Angiolini, supported by Deborah Coles of INQUEST, conducted her Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody. This review, yet to be released, is likely to shed a light on vulnerability and disproportionate harm to groups in custody. Within this environment, ICVs are uniquely placed to monitor changes to the custody setting.

ICVA has a range of roles – neatly summarised as leading, supporting and representing schemes. Here are a few of the successes that we have created:

Leading and representing schemes

ICVA has a key role in leading the development of schemes. We attend many central government and partnership meetings to keep on top of changes to custody. This is both a privilege (check our Twitter feed and you will see how much I adore Westminster and how lucky I feel to work with such amazing partners) and a big responsibility. Scheme managers are often a single person, managing volunteers, rarely full time. We need to communicate changes and required actions quickly and accessibly. I am pleased to say that we have achieved this, a couple of examples being:

  • Working alongside the Home Office to brief schemes on the forthcoming Concordat on Children in Custody to keep children out of custody overnight.
  • Working with the IPCC to brief schemes on how to respond to a death in custody and respond to key reports and recommendations, helping to stop problems from repeating.

We have done a great deal more than this, working with the National Appropriate Adult Network, the inspectorates, the Children’s Commissioner and many others to share information with schemes. We also very much listen to schemes and represent them:

  • ICVA implemented data collection processes – recording data on the number of visits and key issues resulting from them over the year. We used this data to push discussions with partners, to develop as well as demonstrating the size and value of visiting. We will build on this next year.
  • We developed a healthcheck document, asking all schemes to complete this document and assess their compliance with the Code of Practice. The returns highlighted key themes and we’re working with schemes to support them this financial year.
  • ICVA is an active member of the Home Office PACE Strategy Group. This partnership brings together key stakeholders from custody. We have raised important issues to be considered including extended waits for mental health beds and concern over safeguards for voluntary interviews. This has, in turn, instigated new, national projects to respond to these challenges.

Supporting schemes

We also absolutely love working with our schemes, supporting scheme managers to achieve the best in their area. We’ve enjoyed doing so in a number of ways:

  • ICVA continued to provide training to our members, delivering over 30 training sessions with our provider. We also reviewed our training offer, using scheme feedback to review and replace our training modules.
  • We successfully launched a members’ website where schemes benefit both from a library of resources and a forum for discussion. As mentioned before, scheme managers often work alone so this is a nice form of social networking for them as well as a hub to share work and ideas.
  • We held two conferences – one for scheme managers and one for ICVs to attend. We had great speakers and absolutely loved engaging with everyone.  Furthermore, we toured the UK coming to meet volunteers and attend local conferences, enjoying it all.

Looking forward

We cannot be complacent and we are finding that there is always more to do; Team ICVA continues to work away. Sherry and I recently had a bit of a debate as to whether we could take all of our annual leave and decided that some of the work that we do doesn’t feel like work as we enjoy it so much. Indeed, we are very fortunate in that we get to spend time working with partners and going to events that often feel like a treat. It’s true that we have both come to enjoy spending time in custody. Furthermore, our wonderful directors and volunteers are taking on more projects, working together to deliver more than we ever have before. Our Treasurer (hello, John) is an excellent volunteer, helping us to deliver that bang for the buck. A huge thank you to everyone who has been a part of Team ICVA, you are all fantastic and fun colleagues.

Now that we have momentum, we are keen to continue. A large, new strand of this will be on communications. I was extremely nervous and pleased to represent ICVA on BBC news this year. We want to build on this. ICVs and scheme managers are amazing, we want to shout about them. I am thrilled that we have recruited a new Communications specialist (hello, Martin) with many brilliant ideas so watch this space.

Unfortunately, terrorism arrests have continued and ICVs have been working incredibly hard to monitor this area. We work with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation (hello, Max) to support schemes ad volunteers to provide the best possible oversight. This both works to ensure that human rights of detainees are upheld and that the process of custody is effective, safeguarding custody staff too. I look forward to our national conference next month.

Equally, there are big changes to mental health and custody as well as lots of work that could be improved. We’ll be supporting schemes and stakeholders to continue to push through improvements.

Finally, we are always looking to see what we can do to make the most of this amazing service that our volunteers provide. We are going to review our Code of Practice and develop a Quality Assurance Framework that will help us to do so. I’m excited to work with you all on that.

Team ICVA is a brilliant, increasingly focused and impressive group of people who are dedicated to protecting the vulnerable. I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent the past full financial year working with you and I am excited to see what we achieve in the year ahead.  Thank you for all of your excellent work.