Commissioner’s Plan to make South Wales even safer wins Police & Crime Panel’s approval

Early intervention and prompt positive action to help prevent problems before they escalate is at the heart of a five year plan for policing South Wales, approved by the South Wales Police and Crime Panel today.

The plan is based on close co-operation with partners in local government, the health service and the voluntary sector, as well as Welsh Government, and sets out six priorities for keeping our communities safe. It reinforces the South Wales Police vision to make the force the best at understanding and responding to its communities’ needs.

Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael has legal responsibility to set local priorities for policing – and in South Wales this is done through teamwork with Chief Constable Peter Vaughan and his team, as well as listening to the views of the public and partner organisations.

Mr Michael said: “Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour are at historically low levels yet demand for police services remains high at a time when we are faced with austerity and cutbacks. Constant innovation is needed to sustain public services and to improve the wellbeing of all our communities and future generations.

“Early Intervention combined with prompt, positive action will be our focus as we strive to protect the most vulnerable. Co-operation with other organisations and with our communities is the overarching principle which inspires us – together we can achieve more than we can achieve alone. At a time when some other police forces are threatening to retreat from neighbourhood policing, this plan makes clear that local working with communities will be more important to us than ever.”

Chief Constable Peter Vaughan said: “The police are often the first agency to be in contact with children or families in need of help. We want to be part of the solution that can help the vulnerable before reaching the point where they need the emergency services.

“Early Intervention helps prevent problems before they escalate, stops people from becoming victims, diverts people away from crime and reduces demand on the police and our partners. It means swiftly identifying issues and working with partners to find sustainable solutions, leading to prompt positive action.”

The full police and crime plan, together with an executive summary including achievements to date and ambitions for the future, can be found at …………

Child Advocates scheme aims to help youngsters at risk of sexual exploitation

Children who go missing from home and are at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) can now talk to their own Advocates as part of a bid by South Wales Police to help keep them safe. The initiative is the result of a partnership, led by Police and Crime Commissioner,  Alun Michael, between South Wales Police and Barnardo’s Cymru

Four Child Advocates have now joined officers at South Wales Police to help tackle child sexual exploitation. And a launch event in Cardiff gave an opportunity for the project partners to talk to stakeholders, to raise awareness of the Child Advocacy project, and to explore opportunities to sustain this vital role after a successful bid to the Innovation Fund secures the four Child Advocate posts for two years.

“Often young people are not willing to disclose the severity of the issues they are experiencing to figures of authority, such as doctors, teachers or police officers,” said Mr Michael today.  This view was echoed in a thematic review of Child Sexual Exploitation, requested by the Commissioner and the Chief Constable, which endorsed the need for a “debriefing” service for missing children to engage with young people who are vulnerable and in danger of becoming sexually exploited.

The Child Advocates are experienced in communicating with young people in a sensitive manner that encourages them to share what’s going on in their lives. In partnership, South Wales Police and Barnardo’s Cymru will train, supervise and monitor the work of the Child Advocates.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Sophie Howe, said:

“Children at risk of sexual exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in society. By working in partnership with Barnardo’s Cymru and developing this specialist Child Advocate role, we can reach out to vulnerable children and young people.

“The debriefing service will give us the opportunity to intervene and help prevent sexual exploitation taking place, and to protect and support the young person if they have been a victim of abuse.

“As we gain more disclosures from young people, data collection will become more robust, enabling South Wales Police to continue to develop strategies in partnership with a range of agencies to better protect young people and ensure perpetrators of child sexual exploitation are prevented from causing harm.”

Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Holland, South Wales Police, said:

“We are committed to tackling child sexual exploitation in south Wales, and the development of the Child Advocate role is a significant step towards achieving this.

“We recognise that vulnerable young people need to feel safe, secure and comfortable before they can disclose sensitive information, and the four Child Advocates have the skills to facilitate this.”

”With the knowledge and information gained we can then help ensure that any safeguarding measures required are put in place for the child or young person, and we can pursue the perpetrators.”

Yvonne Rodgers, Director, Barnardo’s Cymru said:

“Since starting this work in Wales ten years ago, we have been clear that multi-agency working is key to tackling child sexual exploitation.

“We bring to this partnership our established practice expertise and our absolute commitment to working with others to keep children and young people safe.

“Child sexual exploitation is a complex form of abuse which can leave victims feeling both dependent on and terrified of perpetrators. They are left feeling that there is no-one they can trust and that perhaps nobody will believe them anyway.

“I am confident that through this partnership we will help children and young people feel that there are people they can trust, people who will believe them and people who will keep them safe.”

Alun Michael pledges “We won’t walk away from neighbourhood policing”

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael, has criticised comments by senior officers in England about the days of ‘Bobbies on the Beat’ being numbered and promises “In South Wales we won’t walk away from neighbourhood policing”.

Responding to comments by senior officers in England that the days of bobbies on the beat are numbered, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said:

“This is a quite old-fashioned debate because the idea of police officers wandering the streets without a clear sense of purpose went out 20 years ago. In South Wales we are making best use of the additional PCSOs provided by Welsh Government to work ever more closely with our communities and we won’t be following the line taken by some English police forces who are walking away from neighbourhood policing.

“At a time when the number of police officers in South Wales has been reduced from 3,400 to 2,800 as a result of the cuts posed by the UK Government it’s ever more important to work closely with our communities and with our partners in local government and health and the voluntary sector – so the message from me and from the Chief Constable is that in South Wales we will ‘shrink together, not shrink apart’ because we can do more together to maintain safe, healthy communities than any of us can by working alone in silos of reactive service delivery. With such deep cuts year-on-year – and with more to come – this isn’t easy but it’s the only wise way to plan ahead.”

Agreement binds police and health services together in South Wales

A ground-breaking new agreement to connect policing and health services in South Wales has been launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Chief Constable and the Chief Executive and Chair of Public Health Wales.  It commits South Wales Police and the health service to work ever more closely to tackle the factors that cause both crime and ill-health.

Commissioner Alun Michael has long advocated a “public health approach to crime” since the time, as a Home Office Minister, he promoted the idea of being “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”.  And he welcomed today’s agreement as a “major step forward in  putting principles into practice”.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed on 21 October 2015 at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay will ensure the agencies work in partnership to identify and overcome common challenges, taking a scientific approach and sharing analysis and evaluation.

The agreement will ensure an evidence-based approach to the prevention and reduction of ill-health and crime, and better targeting and evaluation to improve services provided to the public by South Wales Police and Public Health Wales.

The agreement will also make sure that the police and Public Health Wales continue to work closely to prepare and respond to emergency situations including threats from natural disasters, terrorism and other major incidents.

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, said:

“This Memorandum of Understanding is a ground-breaking agreement which will provide a closer working relationship between South Wales Police and Public Health Wales.

“Through a more defined relationship we will be able better to identify individuals at an early stage and intervene to prevent crime and keep vulnerable individuals from entering the criminal justice process.

“There are both health benefits and policing benefits if we can do more together to tackle key issues including violence on streets, excessive drinking, substance misuse, domestic violence and mental health issues.  Key principles include early intervention and prevention of harm.

“We are establishing an agreed programme of work based on the priorities contained within both the Police and Crime Reduction Plan 2015-18 and Public Health Wales’ 2015-2018 Strategic Plan. It will reflect the underlying principle of mutual benefit in order to effectively and efficiently deliver health, wellbeing and safer communities for people living in Wales.”

Chief Constable of South Wales Police Peter Vaughan added:

“By coming together today we have been able to set out a plan for the future, drawing upon the skills and expertise of both organisations to create a long term sustainable plan for closer collaboration.

“We will be able to identify common problems and understand the challenges we face and will progress the delivery of joint priorities from the wider perspective of both public health and criminal justice, with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention.”

Dr Tracey Cooper, Chief Executive of Public Health Wales, said:

“We are looking forward to working in close collaboration with our colleagues in the police. Many of our goals and aspirations are shared, especially around taking early action to ensure young people in Wales are supported to live healthy and crime-free lives.

“This Memorandum of Understanding is an important first step in our collaboration with the police in South Wales, which will deliver real benefits to the public as well as to police and public health services. By pooling our resources and working towards the same goals, we can make a much bigger difference to people’s lives.”

Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB, Chair of Public Health Wales, said:

“This memorandum represents a wider shift in the way agencies are responding to the challenges we face in Wales.  We can no longer afford to work in isolation.  We must work together to align our resources and our goals to improve health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities, and reduce crime.

“This important agreement recognises that ill-health and crime disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society. This commitment will help all three agencies to get support into communities that need it most.”

Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy, Research and International Development for Public Health Wales said:

“Tackling alcohol and drug related problems, road traffic injuries, child abuse, and domestic violence are just a few of challenges faced by both public health and policing organisations.

“This Memorandum of Understanding outlines how Public Health Wales, South Wales Police, and the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales will work together and respond to these challenges by providing support for those affected and critically by tackling the causes ill health and criminal behaviour.”

The memorandum was signed by the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales Alun Michael, the Chief Constable of South Wales Police Peter Vaughan QPM, the Chief Executive of Public Health Wales Dr Tracey Cooper, and the Chair of Public Health Wales Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB.

The signing of the memorandum was witnessed by Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM.

Home Secretary risks confusion over PCSOs and Volunteers, says Alun Michael

The Home Secretary’s initiative to change the role of PCSOs and to give powers to a new range of volunteers is a mistake that would cause confusion, says Alun Michael, the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.

“This consultation is unsettling for communities, is muddled in its approach and risks causing confusion and unnecessary fears in the communities of South Wales,” he said.  “There’s no need for it because there is already flexibility in the system, and Theresa May’s suggestion would reduce flexibility as well as confusing everyone.

“I would like to reassure all of our communities in South Wales that irrespective of this consultation, we will not be replacing our PCSOs with volunteers and we will not be retreating from the emphasis we place on community policing, which is at the heart of our approach in South Wales. The Chief Constable, Peter Vaughan and I are united in this approach.

“The impact of PSCOs in Wales is already greater than in England – they have comparatively few PCSOs in London for example and that is part of the problem. Because of the priorities given by Welsh Government we have an additional 205 PSCOs in South Wales and wherever I go I hear of the value that is placed on them by local communities, councillors and everyone else.

“Theresa May suggests that we should recruit more volunteers but that is already happening without her suggesting it – we don’t need top-down creation of new categories by the Home Office. We greatly value the volunteers who inspect custody facilities and those who volunteer as special constables and in a variety of other roles. We are recruiting more special constables over the coming months because their numbers in South Wales had dropped significantly and I would invite anyone who is willing to volunteer in any capacity in South Wales to get in touch with me – we value your contribution.

“Police Officers are under greater pressure than ever before because of the swingeing cuts that were imposed by the coalition government over the last five years and we know that we are going to have even greater cuts over the next four years. That can’t be ignored and our police officers deserve your respect, support and encouragement as we seek to do more with less and to avoid any diminution in the quality of policing in South Wales.

“We will face the challenges ahead by continuing to place neighbourhood policing at the heart of our approach and will not be implementing the changes outlined by the Home Office. What we need now is to support our police officers and PCSOs in getting on with the job of engaging with our communities and keeping South Wales safe.”


Young people in Swansea


Labour Students in Swansea. Left-right: Tom Hoyles, Alun Michael, Hannah Farrar and Pearl Sangha.

Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, who is campaigning to be the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, called for joint action to offer a positive future for young people in Swansea and promised his personal backing to the council’s youth policy.

Speaking in Swansea, after meeting Councillor Mitchell Theaker, portfolio holder for youth policy, Mr Michael praised the new leadership of Swansea City Council for spelling out “a clear vision of hope for the city”. Mr Michael added: “I particularly welcome the way that the Leader, Councillor David Phillips, has underlined the need for stronger and safer communities with an emphasis on tackling youth unemployment and promoting community safety”.

There are clear links between Swansea’s new vision and his reasons for standing to be Police and Crime Commissioner, said Mr Michael. “The authoritative report which we produced when I was a senior member of the Justice Select Committee of the House of Commons shows that most of the powers and services which can reduce crime and disorder in our society lie outside the police and the criminal justice system. So a partnership approach is vital for everybody.”

“I first stood for Parliament because my experience of working with unemployed young people was that they had been left without hope and without opportunity by the Thatcher Government. And as Deputy Home Secretary from 1997, I introduced both the crime reduction partnerships and the youth offending teams which have been successful in cutting crime”, he added.

“In Wales, the Welsh Government has put in place schemes to help unemployed young people that were scrapped in England but we can’t escape all the problems created by a UK Government that is cutting too far and too fast, particularly in regard to the police.

“In facing tough times we need to work together. Where local authorities have been willing to put in the effort that is essential to offer a brighter future to our young people, as well as working with the police and others to tackle offending behaviour itself, this has worked.  If I am successful in becoming the Police and Crime Commissioner, you have my word that I will work with the police and with the Council to work towards the vision spelt out by the Council’s new leadership,” he said.

Mr Michael also met representatives of Swansea Labour Students during his visit and discussed current issues of concern to students.  These included ways to build trust between the police and young people, particularly during times of high youth unemployment. They also discussed ways to tackle violence, particularly violence against women and domestic violence generally.

Councillor Pearl Sangha commented : “Youth unemployment figures are staggering, it’s a scandal that this government doesn’t see these issues as a priority. It should be common knowledge that without employment comes the culture of crime and discontentment and the role of the police commissioner should be to support young people through these tough times. We need someone who realises that these issues are relevant today and I believe that Alun has exemplified that he understands these circumstances through meeting with various young people across South Wales.”

Alun Michael added: “If I am successful in winning the Labour nomination I shall spend ime listening to the views of students and young people in Swansea and elsewhere as a part of ensuring that everybody’s views about policing and community safety form the backdrop to decisions about the future of policing in South Wales,” said Mr Michael.

Votes for 14-Year-Olds

It’s clear that all the best people read the Penarth Times! Last week my article on poor voter turnout and my suggestion that we lower the voting age to 14 clearly sparked interest and was quoted extensively, not least by the BBC, ITV, The Independent and the Huffington Post online. The ‘Votes at 16’ campaign were also very pleased and Liam Preston, the chair of the British Youth Council, said that he was “delighted” that I had raised the issue. Locking young people out from taking part in their political system is patronising; he said it “relies on out-dated views about young people’s capacities” and he drew comparisons to how women and those under 21 used to be kept out of the voting process.

In the ensuing discussion, some people asked whether young people have the ‘capacity’ to make this kind of decision. Are they mature enough? In fact I find that young people are more than capable of making intelligent decisions than many other people and as the decisions taken by MPs affect their world just as much, it makes sense to include them. We have the opportunity to engage young people at exactly the time when they are learning how the world works, and not just those who go on to college. Once they know how to vote and are registered then they are much more likely to vote again in future elections.

The alternative of trying to engage young people through mock elections hasn’t worked because they know that nothing will change as a result of their vote. So it becomes a sort of ‘beauty contest’.

My guess is that candidates will change how they campaign if they have to ask for the support of people who will have to live with the effects of our legislation for the longest.

I’m glad that people were so interested in this, but my article last week actually highlighted another issue; that of the proposed move to individual voter registration, and away from household registration. The Committee on Standards in Public Life stressed that it is vital to get the existing register up as near to 100% as possible in advance of any move to individual registration. We’re nowhere near that target and with 3 million people already missing from the register, this is now urgent.