A partnership scheme set up between an Oswestry college and the Llangollen policing team is providing learning opportunities for all involved.
For the past 12 months, Llangollen based officers have been helping to provide students at Derwen College with a greater understanding of the role and the work of the police.
The college is a specialist residential college for young people aged between 16 and 25 year olds who have a wide range of learning difficulties and other disabilities. Its aim is to nurture, develop and challenge the students to equip them with the skills they need for employment and to live as independently as possible.
While the students have been visiting police and learning more about their day to day work in the community and responsibilities, the officers have also been gaining a greater understanding of issues facing young people with learning disabilities and difficulties.
Recently, four officers including District Inspector Siobhan Edwards and Sergeant Paul Hughes made a reciprocal visit to the college where they met up with the students – some of whom have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Downs Syndrome - and their tutors where they had a further insight into the work on-going at the college.
“The partnership has broadened our knowledge immensely,” said Sgt Paul Hughes. “Many months ago, I was approached by Sarah Laszlo who is a teacher and Lead Learner Voice Co-ordinator at the college and organised for a number of groups of students to visit us and learn about policing – and it all stemmed from there.”
Many student visits have taken place. A number of presentations have been delivered by Sarah to staff in Llangollen. This in itself has given officers a valuable insight into the difficulties that people with learning disabilities may experience, especially when dealing with police.
Sgt Hughes added: “Through these presentations, we’ve been able to put ourselves in the position of the young adults, and try to see things from their perspective. This has allowed us to fully appreciate the difficulties they may face when communication is often difficult for them. In addition, we have also learnt more around how to recognise certain disabilities and the characteristics that may be displayed.”
He added: “We are committed to encouraging college students to approach the police should they find themselves in difficulty whilst living independently in the community. It is vital that the message given to the students is that the police are not only there to deal with criminals, but are there to support and assist people who need our help in the community. I am delighted that this partnership has evolved.”
Speaking on behalf of the college, Sarah Laszlo said: “We are delighted here at Derwen that the reciprocal partnership between the College and the officers based in Llangollen has been, and continues to be so successful. The opportunity to carry out mutually beneficial awareness building exercises has been invaluable and has gone a long way towards addressing any perceived barriers between the two groups. Students at Derwen now have a far greater understanding of the police force's role in the community and officers can feel more confident when it comes to dealing with young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. We look forward to further collaboration in 2014.”