PEEL: Greater Manchester Police cause of concern – Responding to vulnerable people
If our inspection identifies a serious or critical shortcoming in a force’s practice, policy or performance, it will be reported as a cause of concern. A cause of concern will always be accompanied by one or more recommendations. When we identify causes of concern during our inspections, we normally provide details in the subsequent force report.
In some cases, such as when we discover significant service failures or risks to public safety, we report our concerns and recommendations earlier. This is called an accelerated cause of concern.
We have issued this accelerated cause of concern to Greater Manchester Police because the force’s response to some vulnerable victims is inadequate. It has also failed to make the improvements we recommended in previous inspections.
Failure to make improvements
In our 2017 PEEL inspection of Greater Manchester Police, we reported that the force was failing to respond appropriately to some people who were vulnerable and at risk. In many cases, this meant that early opportunities to protect victims and secure evidence at the scene were being missed. We issued the force with a cause of concern notice.
The force told our inspectors it had plans to respond more quickly to calls from the public.
We inspected the force again in 2019. Its response to some vulnerable and at-risk people was still not satisfactory.
In December 2020, we published our inspection of the service Greater Manchester Police provided to victims of crime. We found this was still a serious cause of concern, particularly in relation to the service it provided to vulnerable victims.
In the past few weeks, we inspected the force again for how it responds to calls from the public. Insufficiently discernible improvements have been made.
On 10 September 2021, the force published its strategic plan entitled Planning our future: Building a new GMP. In the publication, the force established that one of its principal roles is to respond to incidents and emergencies. It also made the public promise that “if you have an emergency, we will get to you more quickly”.
It isn’t yet clear how the force will adequately translate this strategic objective into sufficient improvements in how it operates. And in particular, it doesn’t clearly and adequately explain how it intends to protect vulnerable people in the short term.
This continued failure has given cause for concern about the safety of the public in Greater Manchester.
Failure to respond to calls from the public
In too many important respects, the force cannot routinely respond to emergency and priority incidents within the timescales it has set.
We reviewed a number of incidents where vulnerable people were at risk and found that there were significant delays before the police attended. The force attends under a third of incidents that should be responded to within an hour. Some victims wait for several days, in some cases over a week, and in most cases, the force doesn’t contact the victim to explain that there is a delay. Some of these incidents had been closed without any police response being deployed.
The force has recently introduced the THRIVE risk assessment tool so it can prioritise calls from the public. However, in too many respects the force fails effectively to prioritise its significant backlog of calls awaiting police response. We found over 2,700 during our inspection.
The force fails to adequately and regularly reassess this volume of calls to prioritise the most vulnerable. Where the initial risk assessment had been reviewed, we found examples where the force hadn’t followed its own policies. Sometimes the incident risk had been downgraded without a sufficiently valid reason being recorded. The force does have a policy to escalate incidents when response targets have been missed, but this is insufficiently effective because of the size of the backlog.
The way the force grades incidents to decide how long it should take to respond is not sufficiently compatible with the THRIVE risk assessment tool. As a result, some incidents are wrongly assessed as needing a prompt police response and the force is less able to attend more serious incidents.
The force doesn’t have a sufficiently effective system in place to respond to calls from the public, regularly relying on overtime and diverting officers from other important tasks. The force doesn’t fully and properly understand the demand it faces so it can’t always effectively allocate the resources it needs to respond to these calls.
The high workload is significantly adversely affecting control room staff. Sickness is already high and staff feel stressed and unsupported. It’s difficult for the force to identify wellbeing problems early as no regular one-to-one conversations are set up with staff and there are insufficiently effective arrangements in place to assess, manage and develop staff performance.
Cause of concern
Greater Manchester Police is failing to respond appropriately to some people who are vulnerable and at risk. This means that it is missing some opportunities to safeguard victims and secure evidence at the scene. This enduring service failure has given cause for concern about public safety in Greater Manchester.
The force should immediately:
- develop a plan to promptly improve its capability and capacity to deploy resources to incidents assessed as requiring either an immediate (within 15 minutes) or prompt (within an hour) police response.
Within three months, the force should:
- review its graded response policy, escalation policy and quality of THRIVE risk assessments to support its ability to provide an appropriate response to vulnerability and risk;
- review and implement a command and control system which is able properly to identify and allocate resources in a timely manner to meet demand; and
- introduce a performance framework to support its call handling and despatch staff to improve efficiency and support for its workforce.
This notification of a cause of concern constitutes a report under section 54, Police Act 1996. As it also contains recommendations, the local policing body is required to respond under section 55, Police Act 1996