The Panel held two family listening days – in March 2010 and September 2011, in order to hear from families whose family members had died in custody.
These were an important first step for the IAP to engage with bereaved families. The Panel made a number of recommendations for improvement in the delivery of family liaison by Mental Health Trusts following the family listening day in September 2011, which focused on families of individuals who had died whilst detained under the Mental Health Act.
Deborah Coles has also been leading work on how to bring about improvements in family liaison practice in the custodial sectors and investigative bodies by developing common standards and principles. She chaired a meeting of all the family liaison contacts in September 2010 and discussed ideas about how to improve the clarity and consistency of information provided to families.
In February 2013, the IAP published the family liaison common standards and principles, which were written in partnership with a range of custodial organisations, investigatory bodies and Department of Health. The standards were communicated to practitioners in each of the organisations to be incorporated into existing policies and information leaflets in due course. The standards were endorsed by the Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody at their meeting in February 2013. Organisations were asked to outline how they intended to implement these standards.
In 2014 the MOJ launched a new guide for bereaved families, ‘Guide to Coroner Services’ which explains simply to bereaved people how the inquest process works, what they should expect to experience, what standards of service they should receive from those involved, how to find help and what to do if they were not satisfied by the service. The guide can be found here.
Later this year, the Panel plans to review the contents of the common standards and principles as well as their impact on organisational practices in order to identify whether further work is required.