The Surrey Appropriate Adult Volunteer Service (SAAVS) operates across the county of Surrey and supports vulnerable people during the period of their detention in police custody and during the police investigation.
The original scoping exercise took place in 1994 and the evidence was considered by a joint committee involving the police, social services and the Diocese. The findings led to a joint approach with funding from the county council secured for three years to establish the scheme. This funding has continued to this day with the scheme now independently managed by the Diocese.
· a young person under 17 years of age;
· a vulnerable adult; for example, someone with a learning disability, mentally ill or with serious visual, aural or speech impairment.
An example given in the 2010 Annual Report:
Michael (name changed) is a 49 year old single man who lives with his aged father who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. He is a sufferer of Asperger’s Disorder; he is on medication and, at the time of his arrest, was slightly intoxicated. He is known to self harm. He is on a suspended sentence and a restraining order for causing harassment to Linda, a neighbour. He wanted George, his father, to attend the police station but this was not possible due to the parent’s ill-health.
The role of the Appropriate Adult is to:
· look after the detained person’s welfare;
· protect the person’s rights;
· explain police procedures;
· ensure that important individuals such as relatives/friends are informed about the detention;
· if required a solicitor or a doctor can be called to the police station to assist the vulnerable suspect.
The work is subject to the codes of practice established by PACE. The service operates 24/7 county-wide, serving four custody centres: Reigate, Staines, Guildford and Woking. Four teams of volunteers are on call in shifts throughout the year. SAAVS provides police custody staff with rotas and they contact the available volunteer direct. When a request is made, a volunteer will respond immediately and attend the custody suite. Each case involves meeting the police, examining the custody record and then meeting with the detainee. Various procedures may follow, including identification procedures, interviews, issues regarding bail and/or charge and the volunteer may make representations on the detainee’s behalf. On average, a call takes four hours, but on occasion one may extend over a matter of days.
Our role is to be concerned about any vulnerable suspect who is arrested and is for the time being in the care of Surrey Police whilst detained in the custody suite. We are there as independent lay facilitators who can help with communication, understanding the issue and ensuring fairness with the expectation that there will be a just outcome. This is not simple given the complexity of human behaviour and the vagaries of the law.
As well as the organisations represented on the steering group, SAAVS provides reports to Surrey Youth Justice and the Adult Mental Health Service. We have been inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary/Police.
SAAVS is now funded by an annual grant from Surrey County Council with some support in kind from Surrey Police. This includes training, use of offices and some provision of hospitality. Church buildings are also used for a range of meetings and training events.
Funding is provided at 6 month intervals. I would expect at least 6 months notice of any intention to discontinue. This is not expected to happen. However, although funding has been adequate for most of the last 16 years, SAAVS has had no increase in funding levels for the last 5 years and this year we are running a deficit for the first time. There is no prospect of any increase in funding and this will present a management challenge.
· the role of the Appropriate Adult;
· codes of practice and background legislation;
· police interview techniques;
· procedures at the police station;
· the work of the Duty Solicitor;
· the client group.
In addition, they make a visit to a custody suite and two shadow calls in order to become familiar with the environment and procedure.
There are quarterly meetings as a forum for discussion, updating, training and networking and there is a quarterly newsletter.
Volunteers are entitled to claim travel, telephone and meal expenses as appropriate. They are covered by Personal Accident Insurance.
SAAVS provided a service for 1,100 calls last year at an average time of 4 hours per call. Calculated on the basis of the minimum wage, this amounts to a contribution of about £26,400 per year. However, first, the ‘rate for the job’ would actually be much higher. Secondly, the service stands ready to respond at immediate notice and this requires approximately 80 volunteers to be on duty across the time line to cover the four different custody suites. The organisation, management, training and recruitment necessary to provide 365 days continuous cover is, therefore, significant.
External recognition has come through a Queen’s Award for Voluntary service as well as a Surrey County Council Criminal Justice Award.
· finding high quality volunteers who are willing to devote quite a lot of time to an unknown requirement with regard to when a call will be made.
· providing an adequate degree of training and then giving each volunteer some practical experience before going live on the scheme.
· providing every volunteer with a process of recruitment, vetting and assessment and to maintain this over time with a tiny amount of administrative support.