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Supporting School Community Police Officers in protecting vulnerable children

School Community Police Officers from across Wales joined a webinar hosted by the Wales Violence Prevention Unit on Friday 10 July to provide them with information and guidance to strengthen their responses to vulnerable children affected by violence during the COVID 19 lockdown.

As pupils return to school, the Officers continue to play a vital role in protecting children and young people and responding to concerns relating to violence and abuse. Working with the School Liaison Programme coordinators for each force, the Unit developed a webinar programme which addressed key concerns raised by Officers during the recent school closures.

Sessions delivered by the Wales Violence Prevention Unit, Tarian ROCU and Welsh Women’s Aid focused on the impact of COVID-19 on serious youth violence, child sexual exploitation, online abuse and domestic abuse.

Detective Chief Inspector Mat Lewis, Police Lead, Wales Violence Prevention Unit, said:

“The Unit has been working with partners to monitor the impact of the lockdown on violence. The data has demonstrated that demand for support services has increased, yet there is still little known about how the lockdown has affected vulnerable children and families.

“There is a real concern in the police and education sector that safeguarding issues and disclosures made by children and young people about violence and abuse they are experiencing will increase now schools are open, and these pupils return to a sort of safe haven.

“The webinar refreshed the Officers knowledge and awareness of key types of violence pupils may be experiencing and how this may be impacted by COVID-19, to better prepare them to identify and respond to children and young people affected by violence during the lockdown.”

PC Gareth Williams, Community Safety, St. Asaph said:

“Being new to the role of SCPO (starting in September 2020!) I personally found it very useful and also reassuring as I learn more about the role moving forward.

It is good to see that there is multilateral and thoughtful support and collaboration of the community of agencies helping, educating and safeguarding our children and young people as they navigate the various challenges and transitions along their journey, particularly under the current conditions.”

PC Craig Hadley, School Community Police Officer, Swansea, said: “It was really refreshing to use the technology we are all adjusting to using to focus on the key concerns affecting children and young people in our communities.

“It was a timely reminder to consider that in instances where children are experiencing domestic abuse at home, that it is not only the coercive control they witness but the coercive control they may also be experiencing to look out for."