20 April 2017

How do you respond to the needs of vulnerable people?

‘Improving the skills and status of police officers and staff to enable them to deal more effectively with the needs of vulnerable people ’

How do you respond to the needs of vulnerable people?

' Improving the skills and status of police officers and staff to enable them to deal more effectively with the needs of vulnerable people '

On 30 September 2016, the home secretary approved funding to further improve policing's response to vulnerability. The funding will accelerate four strands of vulnerability-related work, with one focusing on vulnerability and the other three on child sexual exploitation/abuse (CSEA).


The College of Policing is developing a one-day vulnerability training package, supported by a force health check. The training package supports a culture change in forces, encouraging front line officers and staff to look beyond the obvious and provide a more consistent service to the public.

Vulnerability is a priority area for the home secretary, as the demand on policing for safeguarding and public protective services is increasing. This approach to vulnerability equips officers and staff so that they identify signs of vulnerability and take effective action at the earliest possible opportunity.

But it isn't just about identifying vulnerable people and providing services. Most people want to be independent and the challenge for policing and other service providers is to help people look after themselves, drawing on support from families, friends, neighbours etc. We need to build effective partnerships between the person, their support network and the public and third sectors. This allows everyone involved to do what they are best at.

The College has adopted the THRIVE definition of vulnerability, which has shaped our approach:

A person is vulnerable if, as a result of their situation or circumstances, they are unable to take care of or protect themselves or others from harm or exploitation.

The following equation underpins our approach:


Any person could be vulnerable – it is extrinsic factors acting with intrinsic factors that can make someone suffer or be at risk of harm. First responders most often encounter people when they have already suffered or are at risk of harm. In these situations, an officer's role is often to deal with environmental features creating the immediate risk of harm, such as arresting the suspect or enabling support from other people or organisations.

We can prevent the failure of environmental controls and protect vulnerable people from harm by identifying vulnerabilities early on and working with partner organisations. Police officers are not alone – there are many services and organisations who can work together to support this work with vulnerable people.

To support this culture shift, we are developing:

  • a one-day training package accompanied by a short pre-learning exercise
    • this training course will be piloted in four volunteer forces from 24 July to 11 August
    • independent evaluators will evaluate the impact the training has on knowledge and attitudes
    • subject to evaluation, a further roll out of the training will take place from the end of November to the end of March
    • the delivery plan for this training after 31 March 2017 is still to be defined because it sits outside of the project
  • a self-assessed health check to ensure forces have the structure in place to support this culture change.

    If you want to find out more or are thinking of getting involved, please email: vulnerability@college.pnn.police.uk

Child sexual exploitation/abuse

We are developing a number of products to further improve the professionalism and consistency of CSEA investigations. If successful, these three strands of work will act as pathfinders for other areas of vulnerability:

  • Licence to practise

We will develop and pilot a licence to practise approach for child sexual abuse (CSA) investigations. This will improve the professional status of officers and staff carrying out these challenging roles.
The approach is currently being developed and will be piloted in three volunteer forces from September 2017. It will be supported by a code of practice for CSA investigations, which will help chief officers implement supporting structures needed to ensure forces are undertaking these investigations efficiently and effectively.

  • Specialist Child Abuse Investigator Development Programme (SCAIDP)

    We will strengthen the content and quality assurance of the existing SCAIDP course to improve forces' CSA investigative capability and ensure that investigators provide the best service to the public.

    We are developing a number of products under this work stream, including:
    • a SCAIDP refresher course for officers who undertook an older version of the SCAIDP course
    • an ABE upskill event for investigators, focussed on CSEA investigations
    • two immersive learning exercises focussing on how forces and other agencies can work effectively together.
  • Continuing professional development (CPD)

    We will develop and introduce CPD on CSEA for senior leaders in forces. This will ensure that they are able to support investigations and their officers in this high-risk area of policing. We have funding to:
    • run two CPD events, one for chief officers and one for superintendents
    • develop a self-directive CPD package for senior leaders.

Want to know more?

Email vulnerability@college.pnn.police.uk

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