The Knot – recommendations for OPCCs

Last month, in partnership with T2A Alliance members, we held a Knowledge Exchange Network to help OPCCs consider the needs of young adults in their planning process.

The meeting reviewed the evidence-base, heard from people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, and created a space for OPCC colleagues to connect from across England and Wales.  

In our presentation we focused on the learnings from our recent report, The Knot, which looks at lived experience perspectives on policing trauma, poverty and inequalities, and fed back on the core recommendations. The following captures our presentation from the event and the key issues we want OPCCs to consider when developing their police and crime plans.

1. Police and crime plans need to consider the impact of deprivation, poverty and structural inequalities on the likelihood of a young adult becoming a victim, a witness or a suspect of a crime.

We know that children and young adults living in deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, like witnessing or being the victim of violence, and parental neglect or abuse. Children and young adults also struggle with the daily stress caused by food poverty and housing insecurity, and they most likely experience persistent poverty throughout their lives, exacerbated by school exclusions, unemployment, or working in underpaid jobs.

Our review into trauma and poverty informed strategies among PCCs showcases lots of examples of good practice. However, we believe the challenge ahead is to make the strategic link between trauma, poverty and discrimination, to prevent a new generation of young adults from being caught in the revolving door of crisis and crime.

One quick win we suggest for the OPCCs is to look at their Equality Impact Assessment and include socio-economic deprivation and poverty. This should go alongside an Equality Assessment of policies for protected characteristics, particularly looking at how OPCCs plan to reduce racial inequalities in the local criminal justice system.

2. Operational policing must reduce actions that replicate the dynamics of existing personal or societal trauma, such as loss of power, autonomy, and safety

The reality on the ground, is that the police is a blue light service. They are the first responders to mental health crisis, they are involved in taking children into care, they are expected to respond to domestic abuse cases (not just to arrest/prosecute the perpetrator, but often support the victim on site). They do this, even though they are not trained mental health nurses, or social workers.

One key finding from our work was that despite the police’s best intentions, their involvement can be traumatic for individuals in those instances, particularly for groups who are at the sharp end of social exclusion. Therefore, a key area for OPCCs to consider in their police and crime plans is how they will work in partnership with other agencies, so that the police can step down and refer individuals in crisis to better support.

Our research also shows the need for the police to understand the impact of trauma and inequalities. The College of Policing and the NPCC themselves are calling for a comprehensive trauma training for the police forces. Working with the Chief Constable and overseeing the workforce development for the local force is going to be a key priority for the incoming PCCs.

3. Police must make use of their discretionary powers and divert young people out of the revolving door and into support.

Police officers assess a situation once on scene – but what if you could take an extra minute to assess the situation further? The Knot report repeatedly highlights that many young adults who have committed an offence have also suffered from deprivation, poverty, and structural inequalities, all of which can be catalysts to committing crime. There is a feeling of frustration amongst young adults as the police service is asking them to do better without giving them the skills to improve their quality of life.

There is a lot of evidence that proves that the right intervention can make all the difference to a young adult. Preventative measures such as diversion schemes supported by PCCs have reduced the number of children entering the criminal justice system to the lowest levels on record. It can be incredibly difficult to try to change the path you’re on after encountering the criminal justice, and it can feel like the odds are stacked against you with limited options for change. That’s why our New Generation Campaigners, young adults with lived experience of repeat criminal justice contact, are calling for police services to involve them in finding solutions to the revolving door that is distinct to their age group and which address their needs.