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Specials will be allowed to join the Fed, Home Office confirms

Special Constables will be allowed to join the Police Federation as part of recognition of their contingency work during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Home Office has confirmed.

The commitment by the Home Office follows the call for the law to be changed by Federation Chairman John Apter in his interview with Police Oracle.

Under current legislation, the 11,690 Special Constables in England and Wales are not allowed to be members. Instead, the Home Office provides free access to an insurance policy to cover the costs of legal advice in the event of disciplinary proceedings.

The Home Office had said it was ready to look at the issue but Brexit had changed priorities. It has confirmed that proposals will now go forward for the next Queen’s Speech. 

While confirming that Specials will be given the option to join the Federation, the Home Office said feedback from Specials in 2017 was that although they would welcome the extra welfare support, as volunteers they would not be prepared to pay the full fee of becoming Federation members. 

A Home Office Spokesperson said: “The government recognises and values the professionalism, dedication and sacrifice shown by Special Constables. The Police Powers and Protections Bill will be introduced later this year and will seek to allow them membership of the Police Federation for England and Wales.”

Mr Apter told Police Oracle that it was time they were given formal recognition to end the perception among full-time officers that they are hobbyists. He argued they had proved that their expertise was needed by filling in for officers who were self-isolating during the lockdown.

He said: “Specials can’t be members of the Federation; I’ve always felt that was wrong. They should – if they want to – be members so we can give them some support.

“They’ve been absolutely brilliant, they’ve really stepped up. I’ve always been a massive supporter of the Special Constabulary and what this crisis has shown is that they are an integral and essential part of policing.

He added: "The commitment they’ve shown alongside colleagues and the hours they’ve put in has been amazing. To call them volunteers is an insult. I think they’ve demonstrated they are a force to be reckoned with: Special by name, Special by nature.”

Mr Apter said Specials are also taking on a higher risk liability because they are increasingly doing complex work at the same level of regular officers.

He said: “I was a Special but their work is very different now; they are in specialist teams, they’re driving response vehicles and more. They’re doing the same job.”

Mr Apter called on the Home Office to turn its pledge into action to reflect the contribution made during the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said: “This government has given the commitment that the legislation will change. I’m a big believer in the police family and I believe with passion that it’s something that needs to change. Hopefully, the legislation will change soon – they deserve it.”

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