Friday, November 6, 2015

A discussion about the development and implementation of the Active Risk Management System (ARMS) in the UK

 Since 2009, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) –previously known as ACPO and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) have been developing a dynamic risk assessment framework, to assist offender managers in both organisations to manage sex offenders. It has strengthened the Police’s ability to manage registered sex offenders (RSO’s) more effectively and efficiently. Highlighting the risk they pose at the here and now, together with the historic risk they had been assessed at.

Active Risk Management System (ARMS) was primarily developed to address the gap in England and Wales created by the lack of an agreed and consistent approach to evaluating dynamic risk and protective factors in adult male sex offenders so that a defensible risk management strategy or case formulation can be completed. Learning from research and current understanding of the role played by these factors and combining outcomes into a case formulation that measures progress in the management of the offender, which has been one of the core aims in the development of ARMS.

ARMS guides offender managers through the risk assessment process and into a case formulation for each offender. The framework focuses on the current evidence for these factors which are derived from information from the offender, environment, agencies and third party sources.

ARMS has 11 factors which are broken down into 7 risk indicators and 4 protective factors, these cover areas like opportunity to offend, sexual preoccupation, offence related sexual interest, positive routine, social investment and commitment to desist.

Rather than labelling the offender with a risk level the Police have identified the priority for work to be given to reduce the risk and strengthen the protective elements of the management of the offender that will guide the assessor in arriving at a general level of priority for work to be completed.  Once assessed the professional is required to consider the Risk Matrix 2000 assessment of re-conviction and by combining these two assessments arrive at the general level of risk management.  It is this general level of risk management that will guide the timetabling of future engagements with the offender.

The re-defining of the concept of risk is argued will provide something more meaningful and have a direct relationship with work, action and investigation.

A particular strength of ARMS has been its ability to draw these assessments together to arrive at a risk management strategy that over time will measure the effectiveness of the Police’s and National Probation Service actions and provide the framework for intervention.
The Police have been using ARMS since October 2014 and have completed thousands of assessments across England and Wales. ARMS is used in every Police Force by the MOSOVO (Management of Sex Offenders Violent Offenders) officers. These officers now conduct a more thorough, intrusive and challenging conversation with offenders so they can obtain the most complete assessment that is possible in the circumstances. This has involved better training for officers to understand the complexities of such conversations by asking more in depth questions about their behaviour, thoughts and plans.

When officers started to use ARMS and change the way they had conversations with offenders, some found it a real challenge. This represented a cultural change for the Police to understand that to assist an offender from reoffending they had to engage in a more meaningful and sometimes intrusive way to fully recognise what an offender was thinking, fantasying and planning to do. This has led to more comprehensive assessments of offenders which has allowed officers to adjust the overall level of risk. The result of this is that resources are now more effectively and efficiently managed with fewer RSO’s being managed at very high and high risk without effecting public safety. This has been a very successful change in Police’s management of RSO’s and represents the biggest single change in practice since this area pf work started in the late 1990’s.

Research based upon the ARMS pilot was published in 2014:

Duncan Sheppard

If you have any further queries please contact DCC Skeer’s staff officer T/Insp Helen Harkins, Mark Blandford, ARMS developer for National College of Policing, or DCI Duncan Sheppard –MAPPA National Policy lead for Police in England and Wales.

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