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Supporting our young people during the pandemic and beyond

Deputy PCC John Smith in office

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) John Smith concluded his virtual engagement days on Friday 11 December and met with local partners who have continued to support young people during the pandemic.

The Deputy PCC virtually met with Unique Voice to hear about the work the team has undertaken to support vulnerable primary school children.

Typically, Unique Voice work with Bristol schools to provide performance and creative workshops to explore social issues with young people including mental health, bullying and online safety. The community interest company also offers school holiday clubs to ensure vulnerable children are supported during the longer school breaks.

During the pandemic, and with support from the Commissioner’s Community Action Fund (CCAF), the team has been delivering creative activity packs to the city’s most disadvantaged children. Unique Voice ensure they deliver the packs themselves and take the opportunity to engage with the parents and children.

The Deputy PCC highlighted the work of the Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) and discussed how Unique Voice could become involved with their work.

Unique Voice Community Development Manager Dan Ford said: “Receiving support from the CCAF has been invaluable in allowing Unique Voice to support some of the most vulnerable children across the city with our activity packs.

“The packs are designed to reduce isolation, to support children’s mental health and to engage them in positive activities during the times they are not in school. Feedback from parents/ carers has been 100% positive and has highlighted the need for resources like this.”

Following the meeting with Unique Voice, the Deputy PCC spoke to Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service Turning Point and heard about the free confidential treatment the service offers to anyone who is experiencing substance use.

While the service also offers support to adults, the discussion focused on support available to young adults including young people’s workers in local A&E departments, ongoing work to tackle county lines and help available to those with parents who have substance issues. Following the meeting, the Deputy PCC will be putting police staff in contact with Turning Point to further support their work

“It was great to meet John. We talked about lots of issue that affect the local community including county lines, overdose prevention and how we can better join up the Criminal Justice System with drug and alcohol treatment locally.”

Turning Point Senior Operations Manager Justin Hoggans

Finally, the Deputy PCC met with members of the Somerset Youth Parliament to answer their questions regarding the work of the PCC, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and police.

The Somerset Youth Parliament asked how the OPCC and police engage and interact with young people in the area, how young adults are being supported during the pandemic and stop and search.

Following the meeting, Deputy PCC will be arranging to attend one of the Somerset Youth Parliament’s Sunday meetings with the potential of consulting with the Youth Parliament regarding how to further engage with children and young adults.

“Friday’s virtual community day really highlighted the fantastic work of local organisations to support young people in the force area. The meetings also emphasised the need to do more; young people need to know help is available whether that is from the police or a local service and it is our duty to reach out to them to let them know.

“This has been a tough year for everyone but, in my opinion, more so for our children and young adults; their lives have been turned upside down and we need to ensure help is on hand for them as we navigate our way through the current restrictions and when life returns to ‘normal.’

“I look forward to continuing to work with all three of the organisations I met with to ensure there is a joined-up approach between their work and the work of the OPCC and police.”

Deputy PCC John Smith