There to Help 2 (2019)

2018 theretohelp


The report

Key facts



Social media

Press and Media

Latest updates


As Home Secretary, Theresa May commissioned NAAN to produce the There to Help (2015) report. The report found significant problems with the police's identification of vulnerable suspects and the availability of appropriate adults when they were required in England and Wales.

There to Help 2 follows up on progress between 2013/14 and 2017/18. It is based on data from:

The research took place prior to the significant July 2018 changes to PACE Code C relating to vulnerable adult suspects. This means that police were required to obtain an AA if they had any suspicion that a person may have had any mental disorder or was otherwise mentally vulnerable.  

The Report

  • There to Help 2 (2019): Ensuring provision of appropriate adults for mentally vulnerable adults detained or interviewed by police (Full report including executive summary - 115 pages)

Key facts

  • Police recorded the need for an appropriate adult in 6% of around 1 million adult detentions and interviews in 2017/18.
  • This was up from 3% in 2013/14, however academic studies have indicated that as many as 39% of adults in police custody have a mental disorder or intellectual disability. 
  • There were large local variations, particularly in voluntary interviews, as different police forces recorded rates of AA need between 0% to 24%.
  • If police forces with the highest rates were representative of need, at least 111,445 detentions and voluntary interviews of vulnerable adults took place without need for an AA being recorded by police (although if the actual rate of need is 39% this would be closer to 400,000 per year).
  • Certain mental illnesses were less likely to result in an AA; 54% of adults known to have dementia, and 19% known to have anxiety disorder such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), had an AA. 
  • Appropriate adults were not provided to 34% of adults known to have a learning disability and 73% of adults known to have a mental health diagnosis.
  • Where police had no access to an organised AA scheme, they were half as likely to record an adult as needing one.
  • 82% of England and Wales had some kind of organised appropriate adult scheme for adults (up from 52% in 2013/14) leaving 16% of the population in areas with no service. 
  • Adult social services remained the largest funder of provision, providing around two-thirds of funding for AAs. However, in the continud absence of a funded statutory duty, the growth in AA schemes was largely due to police forces funding provision, raising questions around independence. 


To ensure that all police forces record, retrieve, analyse and share reliable data:

  1. Forces should ensure their information systems for custody and voluntary interviews can be used by police officers to quickly and simply record and retrieve reliable data on the need for, application of, and source of AAs, cross referencing with data on protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (especially race and gender) to monitor for bias.

  2. At a local level, forces should ensure this data is regularly shared with the local Head of Custody, Head of Criminal Justice, Office of the PCC, AA commissioners and providers.

  3. At a national level, the NPCC should collate and share this data on an annual basis.

  4. Forces should share best practice in the design and use of information systems (encouraged and facilitated by the NPCC, College of Policing, HM Inspectorates, IOPC, and PCCs).

To ensure that police identify all vulnerable adult suspects and apply the AA safeguard correctly:

  1. The evidence base for the new (July 2018) PACE Code C definition of ‘vulnerability’ should be strengthened with research, and alternative terms considered (e.g. risks to justice, needs).

  2. The NPCC should lead a partnership to develop, test and roll out an evidence-based national screening tool that can effectively and efficiently identify when people may be a ‘vulnerable person’ as defined in PACE Code C 2018 (e.g. with College of Policing, Liaison and Diversion, and academics from forensic psychology, forensic psychiatry and law).

  3. Liaison and Diversion should screen 100% of suspects as soon as is possible in custody (subject to operational hours) and prior to any interview (including voluntary interviews).

  4. Police forces should increase officer and staff awareness of the criminal justice risks and procedural safeguards associated with vulnerable suspects in custody and voluntary interviews, supported by NAAN, NPCC and College of Policing APP and learning resources.

  5. Liaison and Diversion should ensure that its staff understand the PACE definition of vulnerability and AA requirement, through induction training and professional development.

To ensure that effective AA provision is available when and where required:

  1. The Government should achieve parity for adult suspects by establishing a funded statutory duty on local authorities to ensure AA provision which is independent of policing as required under PACE, as is the case for children under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s.38(4).

  2. In the continued absence of a statutory duty, the Government could mirror its success with Liaison and Diversion by providing programme funding to local authorities to establish AA provision under a clear framework for ensuring standards, accountability and sustainability.

  3. The evidence base regarding the outcomes achieved by appropriate adults (for vulnerable people, police and the justice system) should be strengthened through further research.

  4. The Government should ensure that, in addition to HMICFRS, HMIP and ICVs holding police accountable for their responsibilities (identifying need and promptly contacting AAs), the commissioning and provision of AAs is made accountable via existing health and social care inspectors/regulators, recognising the importance of the AA’s independence from policing.

  5. NAAN, Home Office, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and others should promote adherence to the National Standards (2018) and local completion of the national self-assessment tool. 


Social media

Click on the tweet below (not the Guardian article link) to view a Twitter thread by Chris Bath, highlighting the main findings and recommendations from the report. 


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