Number: D1100 Date Published: 19 January 2021 Version 3 – January 2021
1.0 Summary of Changes
This policy has been updated as follows:
Minor amendments made throughout to reflect role titles and responsibilities;
Within section 3.1 clarity given regarding police attendance;
Footnotes added on pages 2 & 5;
Inclusion of NDM infographic on page 4;
Author details updated.
2.0 What this Policy is About
The police are an emergency service whose core operational duties include protecting life, preserving order, preventing the commission of offences and bringing offenders to justice.
Historically, Essex Police has assisted mental health services with incidents which have come to be described as “concern for welfare” checks, even where it was not strictly part of their role and responsibilities.
On occasion the police have actually lacked legal powers to act or were being asked to exercise powers which are available to others as well.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable of Essex Police are committed to protecting children and vulnerable people in our communities and this is clearly set out in the Police and Crime Plan.
This policy outlines how Essex Police will manage concern for welfare incidents and requests for police attendance from members of the public and partnership agencies.
In the application of this policy all staff are reminded of the requirement to comply with the standards and principles of the Code of Ethics for Policing. Compliance with this policy and any linked procedures is mandatory.
3.0 Statement of Policy
This policy is written to clarify the Essex Police position in relation to requests by external agencies and members of the public to carry out ‘Welfare Checks’ on vulnerable adults and children.
Requests of this nature are not only made via the Force Control Room (FCR), and so it is important that all staff have an understanding of the issues involved.
This document is intended to provide officers with an overview of when Welfare Checks should be undertaken and does not include an exhaustive list of police powers of entry. Officers should therefore familiarize themselves with the relevant provisions of:
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE);
The Codes of Practice;
The Children’s Act 1989;
The SET LSCB Procedures 2018.
Essex Police has various tools and existing policies to assist in deciding on the most appropriate response to concern for welfare checks including:
The National Decision-Making Model (NDM);
The THRIVE model (for FCR).
as well as:
D 0503 Procedure – Responding to Incidents
B 1601 Procedure - Missing Persons
E 0500 Policy - Mental Ill Health
3.1 Responding to Requests
Essex Police will respond to requests for attendance from members of the public and external agencies to conduct Welfare Checks on vulnerable adults and children where any one of the following criteria are met:
1. There is a real and immediate risk or threat of harm to life or property(1); 2. The vulnerable person or child is suffering or are at risk of suffering immediate and significant harm as set out in Section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989 and further described in the SET LSCB Procedure 2018; 3. It is reasonably believed that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed; 4. Attendance of a police officer is necessary to prevent a Breach of the Peace
(1) Real - defined as being objectively verifiable, that is to say supported by reference to a range of sources of information. This information may or may not be admissible evidence but can include intelligence or other material that substantiates the fact that a genuine threat exists in the circumstances.
It should not be determined on the subjective fears alone, but those fears should be recorded as part of a proper objective assessment of the potential victim and used as pointers for further research.
Immediate - is defined as present and continuing.
This requires officers to consider all available sources of information as part of a fully documented risk assessment process (THRIVE)
Unless requesting agencies are able to establish the above, police will not attend and the concern, and the resolution of that concern, will remain the responsibility of the requesting agency.
However; Essex Police has a responsibility to check their own records before making a decision whether to attend or not.
It may be the case that attendance at the scene may not be appropriate depending upon the criteria outlined above but this will not remove the positive obligation on Essex Police to deliver its responsibilities as per the SET Safeguarding arrangements including information sharing and attendance at strategy meetings.
3.2 Assessing the Risk
When requests are made for Welfare Checks, the exact nature of the immediate threat, risks and potential harm relating to the vulnerable person must be established by the call taker.
The National Contact Management Principles and Practice gives examples of the priorities for police attendance based on broad incident type but this guidance must be supplemented by an early risk assessment of the specifics of the information provided by the caller and information held by the police.
This risk assessment is further informed by the use of all Police indices and records (see 3.1) to gain further information and underpinned by the Code of Ethics.
The National Decision Making Model (NDM) should be used to inform this process, and where a STORM incident is created it will be prioritised in conjunction with the nationally agreed ACPO response grades.
For those requests that come via the FCR and an incident is created, Contact Handlers must use the THRIVE model in conjunction with the NDM to ensure that they use the information available to make informed decisions.
T - Threat - Threat of what? When and How? H - Harm - To person, property, reputation? R - Risk - Consider reasonable potential risks? I - Investigation - What are the investigative opportunities? V - Vulnerability - Consider vulnerabilities of all persons involved. Not just victim. E - Engagement - Are they part of a hard to reach group?
THRIVE sits within “Assess threat / risk and develop a working strategy” in the NDM:
Every incident requires a THRIVE assessment to be endorsed on the STORM incident by the Contact Handler and all concern for welfare STORM incidents must be reviewed, where dictated by the THRIVE assessment, by a Supervisor as soon as possible to ensure the correct degree of oversight.
No concern for welfare incident should be closed without a supervisor review.
Where appropriate the incident can be reviewed by the Assessment Team, if this is necessary then the Supervisor is required to put a rationale on the incident and ‘tag’ it for the Assessment Team’s attention.
If officers are not going to be assigned, then more justification is required.
This will be especially relevant if the caller is going to be passed to another agency or no response offered at all.
Officers therefore need to include a clear rationale for their decision making.
In applying THRIVE to a request for service, the assessment of other agencies should be considered.
For example, if Children’s Social Care have placed a child on a Child Protection Plan this is relevant information that should be considered by the FCR.
Where the threshold of likelihood of ‘immediate harm’ to a vulnerable person is met the most appropriate locally based supervisor should, if time permits, discuss with the other professionals (for example Social Care) the most appropriate way of mitigating the risk.
3.3 Legislation – Police Powers
The police have a positive duty to protect life under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998. This obligation arises where police know or ought to know about a real risk to life.
In the situation of a welfare check at a home address being carried out by police, any article 2 duty can usually be satisfied by reliance on S17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) which provides that:
“1) Subject to the following provisions of this Section…a constable may enter and search any premises for the purpose… (e) of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property.”
It can be seen that in this particular scenario, S17(1)(e) enables an officer to carry out their core duty to protect life and property and discharge their Article 2 duties by entering a property, either against the will of the occupier or, if necessary, by force. However, welfare checks should not encroach on an individual’s right to privacy.
In the case of Syed v DPP , the High Court ruled that S17 PACE did not justify entry where there was a general concern for the welfare of someone within the premises and therefore officers were not in the execution of their duty when purporting to rely on s17 to force entry against the wishes of the person who answered the door. (2)
Section 27 of the Children Act 1989 places a duty to cooperate with the local authority in carrying out their children’s social care function.
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of serious immediate harm, the police must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.
3.4 Non-Emergency Welfare Checks
If the threshold for police attendance is not satisfied, the concern (and the resolution of that concern), will remain that of the requesting agency or member of the public.
It may occasionally be considered appropriate for police to accompany another agency to conduct such a check, but this will need to be assessed on a case by case basis and it is for the requesting agency to provide the relevant information/ intelligence to support the need for the presence of the police.
(2) Mr Justice Collins said as follows: “It is plain that Parliament intended that the right of entry without any warrant should be limited to cases where there was an apprehension that something serious was otherwise likely to occur, or perhaps had occurred, within the house…. Concern for welfare is not sufficient to justify an entry within the terms of Section 17(1) (e). It is altogether too low a test. I appreciate and have some sympathy with the problems that face officers in a situation such as was faced by these officers. In a sense they are damned if they do and damned if they do not, because if in fact something serious had happened, or was about to happen, and they did not do anything about it because they took the view that they had no right of entry, no doubt there would have been a degree of ex post facto criticism, but it is important to bear in mind that Parliament set the threshold at the height indicated by Section 17(1)(e) because it is a serious matter for a citizen to have his house entered against his will and by force by police officers.”
If the requesting agency cannot provide and evidence good reason, police will not attend and the responsibility for dealing with the matter will remain that of the requesting agency.
If a welfare check is carried out by police, the officer(s) carrying out the check must update the STORM incident and the relevant agency direct.
Police will attend at the request of another force however attending officer(s) are required to satisfy themselves that the threshold for entry is met in all circumstances (see 3.3).
3.5 Escalation Policy
In the event of a disagreement between the requesting agency and police, the matter should be referred to OSCAR 1 in the FCR in their capacity as Force Incident Manager (FIM) who will be responsible for determining whether police resources are deployed.
If senior colleagues from other agencies wish to discuss the police response a particular incident the Chief Superintendent, Head of Contact Management Command, is the Single Point of Contact.
3.6 Missing Persons and Concerns for Welfare
There could be a degree of overlap between a report of a concern for welfare and a missing person report and care must be taken to ensure that the incident is dealt with under the most appropriate category.
Essex Police’s response to missing persons is dealt with under B 1601 Procedure – Missing Persons and section 3.14 of that procedure specifically deals with this overlap and details the limited circumstances when a missing person incident can be reclassified as a concern for welfare.
3.7 Concern for Welfare Checks for People with Mental Health Issues
Before conducting welfare checks on persons believed to be suffering from mental health problems officers should contact the Mental Health Street Triage Team (MHST) via FCR, as the duty Mental Health Nurse has access to relevant NHS records.
The MHST will also advise whether any additional powers may be available under the Mental Health or Mental Capacity Act, details of which can be found under E 0500 Policy - Mental Ill Health.
3.8 Collapse Behind Closed Doors
There is an existing agreement between Essex Police, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) and the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) regarding cases of collapse behind closed doors.
ECFRS will gain entry (mainly deployed by EEAS but can accept calls from other agencies).
EEAS will attend in the normal way and leave the scene with the patient in most urgent cases.
Essex Police will only be called if there is a death, crime or vulnerability issue to the occupants within.
4.0 Implications of the Policy
4.1 Finance / Staffing / Training / Other
This policy is merely a consolidation of existing processes and as such there are no implications under this heading.
4.2 Risk Assessment(s)
There are generic risks associated with the activity of policing crime incidents.
Access to all risk assessments can be gained through the joint Kent and Essex Police Collaboration website.
In applying this procedure officers and staff need to consider the safety of the public and their own safety at all times.
We have a positive duty to uphold every person’s right to life and when responding to calls for assistance must not unduly place any person’s life at risk
4.3 Equality Impact Assessment
EIA – January 2021
The following have been consulted during the formulation of this document:
Health & Safety
Strategic Change Team
Missing Person Team
Domestic Abuse Safeguarding Team
Communities and Engagement Coordinator
LPA Command Teams
FCR Chief Inspector
Directors of Children’s Services
Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Managers
6.0 Monitoring and Review
Compliance with this procedure will be monitored by the Review and Compliance Team within Corporate Services through regular inspection.
The outcome from inspections will be forwarded to the FCR Commander.
This procedure will be reviewed every 12 months by, or on behalf of, the Head of the Force Control Room.
7.0 Related Force Policies or Related Procedures
B 1600 Policy – Missing Persons
B 1601 Procedure - Missing Persons
D 0503 Procedure– Responding to Incidents
E 0500 Policy - Mental Ill Health
7.1 Data Security
Essex Police have measures in place to protect the security of your data in accordance with our Information Management Policy; W 1000 Policy – Information Management.
7.2 Retention & Disposal of Records
Essex Police will hold data in accordance with our Records Review, Retention & Disposal Policy; W 1012 Procedure/SOP - Records Review, Retention and Disposal.
We will only hold data for as long as necessary for the purposes for which we collected.
Victims/public should be reminded that Essex Police take the protection of personal data seriously as described in the privacy notice: https://www.essex.police.uk/hyg/fpnessex/privacy-notice/.
8.0 Other Source Documents, e.g., Legislation, Authorised Professional Practice (APP), Partnership Agreements (if applicable)
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and the Codes of Practice