Police adapt simulator software to improve child protection skills

Social work managers from Croydon and two other councils are to
undergo critical incident training on a computer simulation based
on the Victoria Climbie case.

The pilot scheme, due to start in the spring, will bring together
managers involved in child protection from social services, health,
the police and education.

If successful, staff from the remaining 30 London boroughs could
undergo the training by the end of the year.

The pilot scheme will use Hydra, a system developed by the
Metropolitan Police in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry to
train detectives in handling critical incidents.

Detective chief superintendent Derrick Kelleher of the Metropolitan
Police’s child protection group, said that recognising when an
incident had the potential to go “out of control” was a key skill
for professionals to learn. “The failure to recognise that the
Climbi’ case was a critical incident in the making ended in
tragedy,” he said.

He defined critical incidents as those where “the confidence of the
community is likely to be lost if you handle it incorrectly”.

The Hydra training presents an evolving scenario, with controllers
feeding in new elements at various points. It records the decisions
made at each stage on audio and video so that their influence can
be reviewed later.

The Metropolitan Police’s director of applied learning, Jonathan
Crego, adapted the programme for child protection cases by building
a storyline around the sequence of events leading up to Victoria
Climbi”s death and similar cases.

The simulation involves participants being called to interview
family members and take part in mock press conferences.

The decision to extend its use to child protection work was made by
the London Child Protection Committee, the pan-London body set up
last year in the wake of the Victoria Climbie case.

The committee is currently drafting new child protection
guidelines following a critical report, based on a survey conducted
two years ago, which found that agencies were working with
“unforgivably poor and out of date” policies.

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