This section provides guidance on responding to the needs identified in the demand assessment phase (see Time of day section). Operating hours are often a source of tension between identified need, budget and practical considerations and can present a considerable challenge. However, failure to ensure the availabilty of AAs out of office hours has been linked to unecessary overnight detentions.
Scheme developers /commissioners should carefully consider:
- the statutory duty of local authorities to ensure provision for children;
- the operating hours required to achieve the outcomes of AA provision;
- the costs associated with provision and co-ordination/backup;
- how situations will be handled in which an AA determines that it is not fair to conduct a procedure (such as an interview) with a vulnerable person at a given time (such as in the middle of the night);
- what steps can be taken to ensure cases involving vulnerable suspects are expedited.
Data on demand levels in custody by time/day (gained during the assessment of demand phase) can be useful in judging what level of provision will be required. However, it should be remembered that this data is historical, and therefore represents practice in the context of existing AA provision. It may be necessary to get more qualitative data to understand how police behaviour might change if AAs were available at any time.
The NAAN national standards (2013) state that, "As a general rule an AA service should be provided from whatever source from around 8am to midnight 365 days a year."
The standards were designed to take account of the realities of how schemes had been commissioned. The majority of existing AA schemes have limited hours of operation. A survey of NAAN-registered AA schemes (2017) provides an indication of current operating hours across the country for child AA services.
Chart: Percentage of AA schemes normally operational in the preceding hour
However, recent years have seen a growing awareness of the negative impact of limiting the hours during which AAs are available. Many schemes represented above will have an exceptional case protocol with police, either as a written agreement or an unofficial working arrangement.
The NAAN national standards are due for revision by March 2018. Hours of operation is one area which has been identified as in need of update.
A growing number of funders, commissioners, and providers have worked collaboratively to develop a 24/7/365 model of provision.
Areas known to have 24/7 provision are:
- Barnsley (adults and children)
- Brent (Adults)
- Cambridgeshire (adults and children)
- Cornwall (Children)
- County Durham (Adults)
- Croydon (Children)
- Cumbria (Adults)
- Derby (adults and children)
- Derbyshire (adults and children)
- Doncaster (adults and children)
- East Sussex (Adults)
- Enfield (adults and children)
- Greenwich (Adults)
- Hammersmith and Fulham (Adults)
- Haringey (Adults)
- Hartlepool (Adults)
- Herefordshire (adults and children)
- Isles of Scilly (Children)
- Islington (Children)
- Jersey (adults and children)
- Kingston upon Thames (Children)
- Lambeth (adults and children)
- Leicester (Adults)
- Lewisham (adults and children)
- Lewisham (Adults)
- Merton (adults and children)
- Middlesbrough (Adults)
- Milton Keynes (Children)
- Newham (Children)
- Redcar and Cleveland (Adults)
- Richmond upon Thames (Children)
- Rotherham (Adults)
- Rutland (Adults)
- Sheffield (adults and children)
- Shropshire (Adults)
- South Tyneside (Children)
- Stockton-on-Tees (Adults)
- Telford and Wrekin (Adults)
- Torbay (Children)
- Warwickshire (Adults)
- West Sussex (Adults)
- Worcestershire (Adults)
Some concern has been raised about enabling the interviewing of vulnerable people late at night.
The argument is that it is not appropriate to enable interviews late at night when a suspect, already deemed vulnerable, will not be fully alert. Therefore, 24 hour AA services are not required.
However, there are a number of reasons why this cannot be used as a blanket justification to limit services to hours which are more convenient for providers.
- It is of course critical that vulnerable people are not made more vulnerable by virtue of lack of rest.
- An effective AA would indeed seek to prevent an interview from taking place if they considered it was being conducted in any circumstances that would disadvantage the suspect.
- The normal waking hours of some individuals will vary significantly from office hours. It is by no means certain that a 16 year old will be alert at 9am or exhausted at 1am.
- An AA should be as aware of the risk of exhaustion early in the morning (when they themselves are alert) as at night.
- An AA cannot assess the alertness of a person without first attending them in custody.
- A blanket policy can lead to underiable outcomes, such as a child or adultbeing detained overnight uneccessarily.
See Assessing demand / Time of day for additional information.
Views against 24/7 services are often related to concerns about police not expediting custody cases involving suspects for whom an AA is required.
This is something that is considered to be a greater risk where police are confident that they can call an AA whenever their processes require one.
The need to complete cases before an AA scheme closes (for example at 10pm) can have the effect of ensuring children and vulnerable adults are dealt with and released rather than kept overnight.
Similarly, effective AAs can, where absolutely necessary and in a reasonable manner, indicate to police that they will withdraw their services at a certain time in order to ensure a case is expedited. This is a relatively rare action but a very important one in ensuring the right that detention be used for the minimum time necessary.
Scheme developers / commissioners should keep in mind that the primary purpose of 24/7 AA services is to respond to the needs of the child or adult suspect. 24/7 provision should not equate to AA services being at the 'beck and call' of individual officers. While police clearly benefit from access to an organised scheme, it should be clear to whom the service is being provided.
When developing a scheme, consideration should be given to current and future police practice with regard to expediting custody cases that require an AA.
Out of hours provision can pose a significant challenge whichever model is selected. However, the exact nature of that challenge will depend in part on what model is being used. For example:
- In schemes using core staff (such as YOT officers), AAs are not normally available beyond office hours;
- Schemes relying on Emergency Duty Teams for out of hours coverage may find the EDT has limited resources which it directs to other matters which it considers higher priority
- Commissioned schemes may find it more difficult to recruit AAs and will have to ensure there are staff available for provide the backup function at all times.