Safeguard vulnerable people
Safeguarding vulnerable people is central to the work of the OPCC, the police and our community safety partners. Safeguarding people was considered the biggest priority by respondents to the “Your Priorities, Your Plan” consultation with 70% of people saying it was of importance to them. It is said that ‘safeguarding is everyone’s business’ and we all have a responsibility to put those who are most at risk at the heart of the services we provide. I will continue to put all victims of crime at the centre of my work, especially those who are vulnerable. As we have stated in our new Victims and Witnesses Strategy, I believe services need to start with the needs of the individual, either by taking a child-centered approach, or tailoring safeguarding to the personal circumstances of adults at risk.
People are vulnerable if as a result of their situation or circumstances they are unable to protect themselves, or others, from harm, exploitation or other adverse impacts on their quality of life. Vulnerability can take many forms and can be linked to factors such as mental health, substance misuse and age. We need to protect those children and adults who find themselves in a vulnerable situation and who may not be able to protect themselves from harm.
I am particularly concerned about the sexual abuse and criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, and will work with the Chief Constable to provide the resources to respond to these abuses. Whilst safeguarding and protecting the vulnerable is a priority, perpetrators will also be rigorously pursued and brought to justice.
I recognise the importance of raising awareness of safeguarding issues and have contributed to this work through the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Board, and the West Yorkshire Risk and Vulnerability Strategy Group, and locally and nationally through my commitment to fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery. I will encourage people to report abuses and concerns and work with partners to improve victim confidence to come forward and seek support. Each vulnerable individual must be supported in a way that recognises their personal circumstances, and with more and improved pathways, we will continue to work to deliver the right level of support when people at risk seek help.
We also need to continue to promote early intervention strategies to identify and support individuals at risk, and help to increase their resilience, and that of families and wider communities. We will continue our work to empower individuals, communities and organisations to access guidance and support through building understanding of what abuse is, how people can recognise the signs of abuse, and how individuals can protect themselves and others. This requires different agencies to work better together to safeguard people in different ways. We will only be able to identify and safeguard those who are vulnerable by taking a whole system approach; sharing information and delivering improved services in a coordinated, consistent and cohesive way across communities in West Yorkshire. We will continue to support this improved joint-working, including through the collaborative forums the OPCC supports.
We know these are complex matters and the actions of offenders can have devastating effects for individuals, their families and communities. I will hold the Chief Constable to account for the delivery of robust investigation and enforcement against perpetrators, and work with criminal justice and other partners to ensure that victims are safeguarded and supported during, and outside, of the criminal justice process.
How we will deliver
- Listening to people. Listening to the needs of vulnerable people and victims of crime to support their journey in the criminal justice system. For example, delivering new facilities like West Yorkshire’s video-link hubs, which provide safe, victim-focused places for people to be interviewed or present evidence.
- Understanding our communities. Supporting the Chief Constable in building a police force which represents the communities it serves so people can have confidence in their police.
- Working together. Working with partners to develop and progress a strategic criminal justice recovery plan, learning from adapted business models to ensure new working practices are more efficient and effective than before, using the response to Covid-19 as a catalyst for change.
- Working together. Utilise and share new and existing data to understand the demands faced by the criminal justice system locally post-Covid. We will use the results to prioritise work appropriately and deliver a criminal justice service which supports and provides outcomes for victims, and helps rehabilitate offenders.
- Preventing and intervening earlier. Identifying and implementing best practice to reduce the real cost of crime in West Yorkshire, starting with a focus on prevention, intervention and desistance at the earliest opportunity, especially for young people.
- Improving our services. Regularly reviewing complaints against West Yorkshire Police and make sure that they are operating to national standards in all areas of police practice, and working with the Chief Constable to ensure police employee development and wellbeing continues to be a key priority.
- Improving our services. Through partnership efforts, continue to engage those involved in the criminal justice system, keeping them informed and supported in appropriate and effective ways, helping to maximise the chances of justice being achieved for victims, witnesses, offenders, and communities.
- Providing resources. Working together with criminal justice partners to collaborate more closely and pool resources where it is appropriate to target resources where they are most needed.