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PSA President – we must prepare and innovate to support victims of hidden harm

The President of the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA), Paul Griffiths, has warned that innovation is key to addressing the vulnerability issues linked to the COVID-19 lockdown.

As he attends a summit on hidden harm hosted today by the Prime Minister, Paul is urging the Service, and all safeguarding partners to prepare for a rise in reports, when the restrictions are further eased.

The Association, in line with national partners, has raised concerns about the potential for vulnerable people to be at greater risk as a result of restrictions in place under the lockdown, since the measures were announced.

National support agencies and charities have reported significant increases in requests for support or advice, but the feedback from forces suggests this is not being seen locally.

Paul explains, “Understandably, there has been much focus on the figures we have seen from other partners on the significant increases in calls for support.  A similar focus is being placed on national crime reporting figures, which to date show a 3% increase in reports of domestic abuse. We await the next release of national crime statistics later today, so we can better understand the developing situation.”

Paul continues, “Our members are increasingly anxious and concerned about the fact that vulnerable people who would usually have contacted them repeatedly in recent weeks, have simply not been in touch.  This is an important issue and something I hope to raise at today’s summit.

“In usual circumstances, police and partners would work together in meeting vulnerable people and ensuring their wellbeing, but the current working environment provides significant challenges to these practices.

“It’s encouraging to hear latest announcements on the code word scheme being launched to support victims, and we have started to hear of excellent examples of innovative measures our teams and their partners are undertaking to reach people who may be at harm.  We now need to harness these and spread them wider to provide a network of support to anyone at risk.”

Forces across the country have digitalised their multi-agency process to ensure that meetings are happening more often, using virtual methods.  Teams are working to identify ‘silent victims’ who have not reached out for support in their usual ways, and police are looking at ways to train keyworkers such as supermarket staff in spotting the signs of abuse.

Paul concludes, “I spoke with the Home Secretary last week about the continued concern of our members who are facing these issues and I’m pleased that this is being addressed at today’s summit.”