Posted: Thursday 19th May 2016
Whenever the Scheme Administrator calls me, I know that I will soon be meeting a Vulnerable Adult in custody. This could be someone with mental health issues, a drug problem, learning difficulties or some other vulnerability which means he or she needs the support of an Appropriate Adult. So, if at all possible, I head for the Patchway or Keynsham Custody Centre, partly to guide the detainee through the various procedures, but more generally to ensure his or her welfare.
A typical Vulnerable Adult needing support might be ‘Will’. He’s 25, a schizophrenic with learning difficulties and an alcohol problem. He has been brought in for questioning by police after allegedly causing a disturbance at the hostel where he lives and making threats to kill. He has no social worker or family member willing or suitable to support him in custody.
First I need to introduce myself. Like many others, Will is initially wary, but once he understands I am there to support him in a neutral capacity, he is quite amenable. Indeed, he actually seems to welcome my presence, once I explain my role is to promote his welfare, ensure he understands what is happening to him and that he receives legal advice. In due course, Will, having consulted a legal advisor and having given a full explanation during the interview, is bailed pending further enquiries.
Not all Vulnerable Adults are as susceptible to my charms as Will, however. Uncommunicative and verging on hostile, ‘Darren’ was distinctly resistant and I had to put in some effort to convince him that my presence was meant to be for his benefit. He didn’t want to see a legal advisor either. He just wanted to go home. I had to concentrate at first on just trying to win his confidence. My usual opening gambits drew a blank, but my sudden interest in his tattoos got him chatting. Soon I was able to explain that a legal advisor was already on the way, so there would be no delay. I stressed that I myself could not give legal advice; only a legal advisor could do that. What’s more, before the police interview, the legal advisor would be given the details of the evidence against Darren. My persistence paid off. He was persuaded. After the legal advisor had had his confidential discussion with Darren, we made sure Darren understood the three parts of the caution and the interview could go ahead. Darren replied to all questions (even his name at first!) with, ‘No comment’. Eventually it was decided to take No Further Action, so Darren was returned home by the police.
These two cases briefly illustrate the value of an Appropriate Adult’s role in promoting or protecting the Vulnerable Adult’s welfare. Moreover, it is a rewarding experience for the Appropriate Adult, because in most cases one can feel – in however modest a way – to have made a worthwhile difference.
Avon and Somerset Appropriate Adult Volunteer