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APPG for Children Inquiry: ‘Children and the Police’, by I CAN Communication Advisor, Liz Wood

I’m pleased that how the police engage with young people is in the spotlight. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has launched a new inquiry to explore the police’s relationships with children and young people, how they engage with them, and how children and young people view the police.  The inquiry will also consider how the police interact with other services including education, social care, and child protection, and also aims to set out recommendations on how the police can work more effectively with vulnerable children and young people.

Through involvement in Raising Your Game, a partnership project with Mencap and Nacro, we were able to provide evidence in three key areas of the inquiry.  We provided examples of young people’s experiences in engaging with the police; collated research to evidence that children and young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) are at greater risk of involvement in offending and shared early indicative findings from the evaluation of Talk about Talk. Talk about Talk is an interactive training workshop that we have developed and delivered to organisations involved in the criminal justice system, including the police.

We created a bespoke questionnaire covering six different aspects of communication and supported young people, with learning disabilities and /or communication difficulties, who are involved in the project, to complete it.   The young people were aged between 15 and 25 and had experienced interacting with the police in a variety of contexts. Many had quite strong views, and we found that the experience of young people‘s interaction with the police is varied- some reporting a more positive experience than others.

The responses showed though that even small changes to an interaction can result in a more positive outcome and that the style of communication the police use directly influences how the young person responds.

 Unfortunately due to the time scales of the inquiry many Raising Your Game groups were not running over the summer which reduced the number of young people that could be accessed to comment. Nonetheless there was sufficient data to consider the benefits of training all police in communication strategies and increasing their awareness and knowledge of communication difficulties.  This could significantly improve how the police engage with all young people including those with learning disabilities and speech and language difficulties, and could improve the outcome of every interaction in a positive way.

Our response has now been submitted and we have offered to present our findings with some young people from the project to the Parliamentary group. I look forward to seeing the outcome and recommendations.

Find out more about Raising Your Game