Merseyside Police have joined forces with the NSPCC’s Childline service to support young people in crisis.
The initiative, which is the first of its kind in the country, aims to support young people up to the age of 19 who come into police custody suites.
Young people who find themselves in custody will now be offered a call to Childline, where experienced counsellors will offer them advice and support in a confidential setting. In addition to the call, they are offered a solicitor.
The idea came from Deborah Rigby, a retired Merseyside police officer, who is now a supervisor at Childline in Liverpool. Through her work she could see that many young people who come into custody would benefit from the support that Childline offers. Deborah approached Merseyside Police and Constable Christopher Beedle from Prevention saw the potential in a collaboration with Childline and they began to work together to make the idea reality.
When a young person comes into custody, they are offered support but do not always take it because the offer has come from the police. This often results in young people being released without receiving the additional support they may need and then reoffending, beginning the cycle again.
By offering a confidential call to Childline while in custody, it may result in that young person accepting support and providing the first step towards breaking the cycle of reoffending.
In the last six months Merseyside Police have seen 787 young people come into custody and the service has the potential to make a difference to many young lives and put them back onto the right path.
Constable Christopher Beedle, Prevention, Merseyside Police said: “This initiative gives us an opportunity to engage with the young people who unfortunately find themselves in police custody. It’s about getting them the right support and keeping them safe once they leave custody.
“Prior to the official launch, custody staff have been proactively raising awareness of the confidential support Childline offer to young people. Our aim is to ensure that any young person who enters custody receives the right support that has the potential to make a huge difference to their lives and stop them reoffending.”
Superintendent Martin Earl, Prevention, Merseyside Police said: “This initiative is a great example of the preventative work we carry out every day. Working in partnership with the NSPCC we will hopefully make a difference to the lives of many young people and get them the support they need.”
Childline Liverpool Supervisor, Deborah Rigby, said: “We would like to thank Merseyside Police for agreeing to be part of this amazing partnership project with Childline.
“As a former police officer, I have first-hand experience of working with children in custody and I know what a difference a service like this could make to their lives.
“Merseyside Police will offer all young people who pass through their custody suite a confidential and independent call to speak to a Childline counsellor. Young people will also be given a leaflet on discharge, highlighting the support Childline can offer them so that they can use the service at a time that suits them.”
Childline Liverpool Supervisor, Dawn Rogers, added: “Whilst we will be working alongside the police, the support we offer young people will be totally independent and confidential.
“This is an exciting opportunity to reach a vulnerable group of children who might not previously have had the chance to speak with Childline.”
A number of other forces have expressed an interest in the initiative and are keen to adopt it. An idea that began on Merseyside may soon be extended across the country and beyond over the next 12 months.