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Force partners with Barnardo’s for trauma-informed training

In the summer of last year, Barnardo’s began working with West Midlands on trauma-informed police training in a project that was funded by the Home Office.

Last week, further funding was confirmed from the force’s Violence Reduction Partnership to enable Barnardo’s to continue the project until March of next year. 

The training covers multiple areas of policing - from the frontline, to custody and new recruits. 

The sessions run in-person for around half a day, and differ depending on the role they are being offered for. Examples of topics covered include the issue of behaviour as communication, the brain science behind the impact of trauma (for example upon memory which may be relevant for interviews and witness statements), and how the uncertainty and limbo-state of custody might impact individuals. 

Inspector Manj Ahir told Police Oracle: “When we talk about trauma, we talk about reducing the demand upon the the custody runner, you’ve got someone constantly pressing that buzzer,’ I want attention, I want attention because I'm bored in a cell’. You give them a distraction pack and could change those behaviours.” 

To date around 1,200 officers have been trained in different areas, including 287 frontline staff. They have also managed to train 309 new recruits in amongst the new training programmes. 

Barnardo’s Senior Strategic Co-ordinator in Trauma Informed Practice, Ben Curtis, told Police Oracle: “I think my challenge to people who would maybe not be convinced by these ways of working is that nobody is suggesting that if somebody has committed some kind of a crime, that there shouldn't be an accountability framework for that. 

“But there's no reason why that can't be done in a compassionate way that respects the fact that people's experiences will influence their behaviour. It’s seeing that behaviour as a communication.

“Of course, if that young person is more emotionally regulated, they're calm. If they have something like a distraction item, they are less likely to be abusive towards the officers, assault the officers or to mean that force has to be used. And that is going to contribute to the wellbeing of those staff as well.” 

To ensure that the training is not just a one-off however, ‘Champions groups’ are beginning to be established, with one already set up for custody. The groups bring together those who have completed the training and are interested in continuing to promote those ways of working. They will meet once a month. 

Insp Ahir explained: “We met last month for the first time talking how we can continue to get that message across how we can continue to provide that support network. Some of the things we're going to do now is we're actually going to create a web page for the trauma champions network where support, information and referrals will be signposted.” 

The force has also had a custody innovation project that Barnardo’s has helped to inform. Since January, they have redesigned cell blocks to better cater for children with neuro-diverse conditions. The walls have been decorated with paintings of landscapes or solar systems and clocks have also been put in. Children and young people can also be provided with distraction packs with things like ADHD stress balls and colouring books (after a risk assessment). 

An independent evaluation conducted by the Birmingham voluntary sector council at the University of Wolverhampton has said the programme is a good starting point, but that there is still more to do. 

The Violence Reduction Partnership has also implemented some evaluation time from the University of Wolverhampton and a specialist - the details of which are still being worked out but may include an attitudinal survey as well as dip samples. 

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