Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? This might look like placeholder text, but it's actually Latin for something like, "Who watches the watchers?"
Outcomes for children and vulnerable adults who are detained or questioned by police are affected by a range of people. Reflecting the high risk of harm in this context, these people are subject to a high level of accountability and external scrutiny to ensure their compliance with the standards and regulations under which they operate. For example:
- Police custody officers are primarily subject to inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICFRS) but are also accountable to PCCs and sometime the IOPC;
- Healthcare professionals working in police custody are inspected and regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales;
- Police station legal aid solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and legal representatives are accredited by the Legal Aid Agency.
Unlike these other roles, appropriate adult provision is not subject to inspection or regulation. The impact of this is that:
- It is more difficult to identify where children and vulnerable people are receiving high quality provision and where they are not;
- It is more difficult to identify the extent to which problems are caused by police versus appropriate adult provision;
- It is more difficult to increase confidence in appropriate adult provision.
NAAN is leading efforts to ensure greater accountability for AA provision.
We seek to work in partnership with Government, inspectorates, regulators, monitoring organisations, commissioners and professional bodies to improve accountability of appropriate adult provision, seeking to include oversight into existing arrangements where possible.
Our work developing widely respected, evidence-based, national standards has been designed with a future system of inspections in mind. Our development of a self assessment tool will support local areas in ensuring their provison is ready for such a system.
In addtition, in partnership with awarding body Gateway Qualifications NAAN offers an Ofqual-regulated qualification for appropriate adults.
Current accountability systems
NAAN national standards
NAAN publishes national standards for organised appropriate adult provision. These are approved by the Youth Justice Board (in relation to children), Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (in relation to adults), as well as the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.
NAAN also provides members with a national standards self-assessment tool. This allows managers/commissioners, coordinators and appropriate adults to evaluate their scheme's compliance with the standards. Self-assessments are an internal tool to help drive a scheme's performance. The result of self-assessments are not public information and do not have to be submitted to NAAN. Publication of self-assessment would likely limit its effectiveness in driving performance since it would discourage open and critical analysis.
Youth justice standards
Under the national standards for youth justice, Youth Offending Teams "should implement clear youth justice specific local policies and protocols covering: provision of persons to act as appropriate adults to safeguard the interests of children detained or questioned by police officers in line with the NAAN national standards". This does not apply to provision for vulnerable adults.
Appropriate adult inspections
There is currently no system of independent inspection of AA provision against the NAAN national standards (or any other standards). The following inspections are relevant to appropriate adult provision.
What about childrens social care inspections?
Ofsted is responsible for inspecting local authority children's services in England. In Wales the Care Inspectorate Wales is responsible. Although inspection reports focus on the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection (including safeguarding) and those in care who may have become involved in crime, they do not include the appropriate adult role in the context of social work. This is likely to be because the AA role is a statutory duty of Youth Offending Teams specifically.
What about adult social care inspections?
The Care Quality Commission is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. In Wales the Care Inspectorate Wales is responsible. AA provision for vulnerable adults has historically been part of a social worker's responsibilities. AA provision is majority funded by adult social care. However, inspections of adult social care do not include the role of the AA in supporting vulnerable adults when they are suspected of an offence.
What about YOT inspections?
HMI Probation leads the inspection of Youth Offending Teams (YOTs). Full Joint YOT Inspections include partner inspectorates covering health, children’s social care, education and training, and police. They are full members of the inspection team (and they contribute to inspection judgements) These inspections consider: organisational delivery; court disposals and out of court disposals. Although it is a statutory duty of YOTs, appropriate adult provision for children is not included in YOT inspections. Even if this were to change, appropriate adult provision for adults would clearly not be covered by YOT inspections.
What about police child protection inspections?
The police inspectorate (HMICFRS) carries out inspections of the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales. These inspections include looking at a small sample of cases involving children detained in police custody. These inspections often pick up issues related to the police's actions in relation to appropriate adults. For example, they have found that the attendance of appropriate adults at the custody office is timed to coincide with other events, such as interviews, rather than when the child is detained. However, they do not inspect the appropriate adult scheme itself. Their remit is to inspect the police (from which AAs must by definition be independent).
What about police custody inspections?
HMICFRS works in partnership with the prisons inspectorate (HMIP) to carry out inspections of police custody suites. These inspections involve spending significant time in police custody. They often pick up issues related to the police's actions in relation to appropriate adults. For example, they have found that the police often do not secure an appropriate adult for adults who meet the definition of mentally vulnerable. Voluntary interviews of suspects (a growing trend) are not within the scope of these inspections. They do not include inspection of appropriate adult schemes. Their remit is to inspect the police (from which AAs must by definition be independent).
What about criminal justice thematic inspections?
From time to time, there are thematic inspection reports that take a national snapshot. Some of these have covered or touched on appropriate adults:
- 2011: CJJI: Who's looking out for the children? A joint inspection of Appropriate Adult provision and children in detention after charge;
- 2014: HMI Probation: Joint Inspection of the Treatment of Offenders with Learning Disabilities within the Criminal Justice System – Phase 1 From Arrest to Sentence;
- 2015: HMI Constabulary: The welfare of vulnerable people in police custody.
The CJJI thematic, the only one to focus on appropriate adults (though only in relation to children) found that: "There was a lack of any credible assessment of the quality of service provided by Appropriate Adults" and that, "While there are forums at both local and national level to monitor Appropriate Adult provision, the quality of the service given was rarely raised, and the providers generally assessed this based on a lack of complaint from the police".
This applies to frontline AA practitioners and is carried out by the local scheme coordinator. NAAN national standard 4.2 states that, "AA's individual development and support needs are quickly identified and effectively addressed". However, as there is no inspection of schemes, it is currently not known how many schemes meet this standard. A limitation of this measure is that it is not independent of the organisation providing the support.
Management or contract monitoring
The main form of accountability for AA provision is currently through management or contract monitoring. Where a local authority (i.e. YOT or adult social care) runs its own AA provision, accountability is via the internal management structures. Where provision is contracted out, accountability is normally via regular contract monitoring reports and meetings. The focus of these tends to be on 'output metrics' such as how many times the scheme has attended and how quickly. Sometime providers will also be asked to provide a small number of case studies to show what outcomes they have achieved. A limitation of this measure is that it is not independent of the organisation responsible for ensuring provision.
Independent Custody Visitors
ICVs are volunteers attend police stations to check on the treatment of detainees and the conditions in which they are held and that their rights and entitlements are being observed. In one sense, they are the local eyes and ears of the HM Inspectorate. Their national body ICVA has been encouraging ICV schemes to consider issues around vulnerability and appropriate adults and in some areas this is happening. However, ICVs are not present in interviews, whether in custody or voluntary attendances. They are not entirely independent from policing, in the sense that they are recruited, trained and managed by the local Police and Crime Commissioner, to whom they report.