Domestic abuse is increasingly becoming ‘everyone’s business’, following improvements to the service provided to victims
In March 2014, HMIC published a report, ‘Everyone’s business’, which found significant weaknesses in the service provided to victims of domestic abuse by the police. Between June and August 2015, as part of its PEEL: Effectiveness inspection programme, HMIC therefore visited every police force in England and Wales to assess the progress they had made in responding to and protecting victims of domestic abuse.
The findings from this inspection (published today in the national thematic report, ‘Increasingly everyone’s business’) show that the police service has acted on the messages of Everyone’s business, and now sees tackling domestic abuse as an important priority.
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HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, said:
“When we first inspected the police response to domestic abuse, we found most forces demonstrated a startling lack of awareness of domestic abuse and inconsistent or poor practice. Our report in 2014 was intended to be a wake-up call, and I am pleased to say that the police service now offers a better service to victims of domestic abuse.
“There has been a determined effort by police leaders to make domestic abuse a priority and the attitudes and understanding of frontline police officers are improving. Police officers and staff increasingly see domestic abuse as their business, not someone else’s, and are acting in a supportive and sympathetic way when responding to victims.
“We know that the scale of change needed on domestic abuse will take time to bring about in full, and that there is still much more to be done. We’re particularly concerned that the workload in many specialist investigation units is becoming overwhelming, which is slowing and hindering some investigations. Forces should also do more to understand the nature and scale of domestic abuse in their area, and ensure that there is effective and consistent operational practice everywhere.
“But this does not diminish the value of the often excellent work being completed by a large number of police leaders, police officers and staff supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“HMIC remains committed to inspecting forces’ progress in tackling domestic abuse during 2016 and beyond.”
It is crucial that the police get this right. Domestic abuse victims (and their children) are among the most vulnerable in society; and domestic abuse accounts for 10 percent of all recorded crime. Moreover, since the publication of Everyone’s Business, there has been a 31 percent increase in domestic-abuse related recorded crime. This is, in part, due to forces getting better at identifying and recording domestic abuse, and also may show victims are now more confident in coming forward.
However, HMIC found there are still a number of areas for improvement in the way the police respond to, support and protect domestic abuse victims. In particular, forces need to:
- take immediate steps to respond to the significant workloads in specialist public protection teams;
- train all police officers and staff to understand and identify the complex dynamics of abuse and coercive control;
- improve their understanding of the nature and scale of domestic abuse across their areas;
- ensure the quality of service offered to victims assessed as standard and medium risk meets that provided to victims assessed as high risk; and
- make sure that partnership working arrangements (which are crucial to providing coherent support) are effective, and evaluate how far they result in positive outcomes for victims.
As part of its report, HMIC has made a series of recommendations to ensure that the momentum for change demonstrated so far continues at pace.
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- HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
- Findings on individual forces’ performance on domestic abuse will be included in vulnerability reports published at 00.01 Tuesday 15 December 2015.
- The findings of this report will also be incorporated into HMIC’s full 2015 PEEL Effectiveness inspection (including overall effectiveness grades for all 43 forces in England and Wales), which will be published in February 2016. This Effectiveness grading will also include forces’ approach to missing and absent children, and protecting victims of child abuse.
- HMIC decided to publish the vulnerability inspection results separately and in advance, so that forces could act upon the findings as quickly as possible. As with all HMIC inspections, we immediately alerted forces where we found details of poor practice and risk, so they could work to address them at once.
- Between June and August 2015, as part of its new annual all-force inspection programme covering forces’ effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (known as PEEL), HMIC revisited each police force in England and Wales to examine how well they respond to and safeguard victims of domestic abuse. This included looking at how well they identify repeat and vulnerable victims of domestic abuse; how officers and staff assess and respond to the risks faced by victims; the training and support officers and staff receive and the standard of investigations of domestic abuse incidents.
- HMI Zoë Billingham will be available for interview.
- For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.