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Culture change in forces is crucial to end VAWG, says national lead

Rapid progress has been made to tackle violence against women and girls. Winning trust is the big test, say the national leads.

After huge scandals including the murder of a young woman by a police officer, the Service has moved quickly to create a national response to violence against women and girls.

That's the stark message from Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, the National Police Lead for Violence Against Women and Girls and Manjit Atwal, Head of Delivery at the College of Policing.

DCC Blyth tells Police Oracle: “At the heart of this is trust and confidence – we know it’s at an all-time low. It’s something that really concerns us. But our ambition is really high.”.

DCC Blyth was appointed national lead by the National Police Chiefs’ Council in September and the College of Policing published the VAWG toolkit in December.

Forces, the Home Office and the College moved at a pace not often seen in policing.

She says: “All of us came together and we are all very much behind it.”

“We knew we need to listen to our stakeholders; the public. But we also knew we had enough evidence to move quickly.”

But the toolkit also set out just how low the starting base is for forces:  “Some forms of violence against women and girls are so commonplace that many women and girls don’t even think they are worth reporting. This is the case for things like being grabbed, touched, and/or threatened by strangers.”

The next – and critical – piece of work is winning the hearts and minds of the public as well as the officers who respond.

Work within forces is now under way to explain how the toolkits and strategy will be turned into reality.

Manjit Atwal, Head of Delivery at the College of Policing, said: “It’s everybody: it’s staff as well as officers. It’s looking at that first call that comes in and going from there.”

Leadership training is also part of the next strand of work so that the ‘thread’ that runs from that first call is the right one.

Ms Atwal says: “We have to have the right leaders to ensure to deliver. If we don’t get that right then we won’t go forward.”

That will also include tackling internal issues such as support for officers coming back from parental leave. In short cultural change.

She explains: “It’s recognising the behaviours; if you recognise those behaviours you can then work out how to manage them. That’s going to have a ripple effect.”

Uplift has also brought an advantage; a cohort of officers has been given the best practice at the start of their careers – and they are on the streets now.

“Workforce is where it matters; and that's where the partnership with the College is really important. Remember 43% of the Uplift uptake are women,” says DCC Blyth.

Another aspect of the work is a campaign to challenge social attitudes which will be based on some of the learning from the counter terrorism work of Servator and Prevent.

DCC Blyth says “We took some advice from Counter Terrorism. Neil Basu [then-national lead] said that if you don’t go from the beginning with a campaign in changing attitudes, you’re going to have a problem. We need to change the attitudes.”

One of the other benefits is that the initiative was able to pull together existing best practice that had been going on in isolation; learning from Hampshire and Sussex has been put to good use.

Policing has hit by a wave of criticism uring the last two years on a range of issues not least VAWG. But in the middle of negative headlines, there are the beginnings of positive results.

DCC Blyth says: “There’s already some great work being done. We’ve had an opportunity to influence that.”

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