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The Youth Commission enables young people to support, challenge and inform the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire and Cheshire Constabulary.
Since 2016, the project has continued to work together to recruit enthusiastic, skilled young ambassadors for Cheshire. These dedicated volunteers have given up their own time to get out and talk to other young people about the priorities that matter to them.
They have gathered views from more than 5,500 young people across the diverse communities of Cheshire through peer to peer engagement, engaged with more than 50 partners over two cycles of the ‘Big Conversation’ and undertaken innovative work such as acting as observers on key police operations over Halloween and Bonfire Night.
In addition, over the course of the past two years, working alongside the Constabulary the Police & Crime Commissioner, Youth Commission members have set up a Youth Advisory Group to provide advice and input to the Constabulary on key themes affecting young people such as stop and search and missing from home.
Each year, the Youth Commission produces a report for the Police and Crime Commissioner about the issues they have focused on over the past year. You can read their latest report and previous reports here:
Here you can read blog posts written by Cheshire Youth Commission members to update you on the work they have been doing to give young people a voice within policing and the criminal justice system.
During my time with the PCC, I learned that my opinion is heard and considered, which gave me a sense of reassurance, as I came to know that the police tries its best to get involved in and solve public’s issues.
I have taken part in lots of meetings, in which I enjoyed, as I met new people and listened to their stories and learned from their experiences, as well as got the opportunity to share mine.
The thing I found most interesting so far is meeting Chief Crown Prosecutor, whom we got to ask about society's safety, and the future plans being made to ensure it, and this is a very valuable experience for me personally, as I believe that I wouldn't have found the opportunity to meet and learn from the chief crown prosecutor, if it wasn’t for the CYC.
I enjoy every minute and wish to complete my pathway with the CYC.
To gain more insight into this year’s Cheshire youth commission priority ‘violence and abuse’ I read a BBCs news article that discussed Ofsted’s findings about sexual harassment in schools. The article “Sexual Harassment normalised among children, warns Ofsted” (BBC news 10/06/21) gives good insight into the prevalence of sexual harassment in the social dynamics of school and college aged people in the UK today, where “sexist name-calling and being sent unwanted explicit pictures or videos happens “a lot” or “sometimes”, as well as other forms of “sexual violence”. However, the article gave no mention to the fact that much of the sexual harassment involving school aged children occurs in very different circumstances, towards young people (usually girls) from older, adult individuals (usually men). While it is normally advisable to avoid sweeping generalisations regarding gender, in this context it would be misleading not to mention the different experiences that the different genders have.
The way in which this form of sexual harassment takes place most often in public (eg catcalls while out running, walking to/from school, in town etc.) means that it plays a significant role in shaping what is deemed as socially permissible, by establishing itself as a societal norm to be expected and accepted. This has the unfortunate consequence of making victims of sexual harassment feel as though reporting isn’t an appropriate response, which only perpetuates this type of crime as the element of deterrent that comes from legal action is largely eliminated. Ultimately, a diminished sense of criminality has been reached where sexual harassment is seem more as an unfortunate social issue as opposed to legitimate criminal behaviour. This is reflected by the absence of any mention in the BBC article of sexual harassment being criminal offence, and the suggested solution being more staff training and better support for school leaders. Had the issue been surrounding use of illegal drugs, or violence on the same scale, would the response have been different?
While sexual harassment is so common and is predominantly a gendered issue, an overwhelming attitude of dismissal towards the concept that misogyny still acts in modern day Britain impedes the resolution of the problem, attitudes must change before sexual harassment will be addressed with sufficient sincerity to bring about change.
The proposal of better education in schools to eliminate a culture where sexual harassment is accepted is valid. It will reduce incidence in schools and in greater society for future generations. However, more is needed to be done about the participation of those above school age in perpetuating the culture of harassment, not only via means of harassment directly but through tolerance of this behaviour from others.
Iona Young, 17
The conference was so interesting as I learned about the creative and thoughtful ways in which Warrington Police are combating Knife Crime aswell as ASB.
Superintendant Martin Cleworth led the conference working through a crime plan that was segregated into three categories of 'Pursue, Prepare and Prevent.' This listed the actions took in attempt to reduce crime in Warrington, in particular weapon carrying and targeting volatile members of society who could be vulnerable to carrying weapons.
An amazing idea was to establish the Mini Police project at many primary schools in order to enhance youth engagement and instil a sense of morality from an early age so children grow up knowing that weapon carrying is not a form of protection nor a necessity, and that it is in fact illegal and extremely dangerous.
Along with Martin Cleworth, Neil Kelly from Warrington Wolves Foundation also attended and discussed the way in which his team are going to communicate this idea of being "Knife Free".
This was a great idea as by using a team in which everyone adores as a platform to subtly communicate how taking the wrong path in life is never the right option may aspire young people to re-evaluate their decisions, as he explained two of the players had chose the wrong path but got themselves out by being motivated and displacing their anger into sports.
My position of a young person was also valued heavily as my ideas on social media for short clips that can be reposted and going live on sites such as Instagram or Facebook was appreciated.
The conference was a vivid insight into the motivated and aspiring techniques of the police in order to battle the ongoing conflict of weapon carrying and ASB.
This year, as members of the Cheshire Youth Commission, we were offered the opportunity to visit to two prisons in and around the Cheshire Area. We first visited Thorncross prison, an open prison that houses category D prisoners that have two years or less remaining on their sentence; this prison focuses on preparing prisoners for their return into society through programmes centred around gaining new skills and re-entering the workplace. We later visited Altcourse prison, housing category B prisoners; Altcourse is a much larger facility with much higher levels of security and much lower levels of personal freedom. The purpose of our visits was to evaluate the pros and cons of the prison systems regarding the punishment and rehabilitation of young people.
Thorncross gives inmates a much higher level of personal freedom, each inmate has the key to their room and can come and go as they please; many individuals have jobs during their time in Thorncross, some within the prison and some within the local community. This facility uses these job opportunities as a method of rehabilitation and a source of income for inmates in order to better prepare them for their release, both financially and socially. The prison guards that accompanied us stated that inmates that have worked during their time at Thorncross, and especially those with guaranteed work post-release, are much less likely to reoffend; these inmates also find the transition back into society much easier, with a stable income and a stable work life. Altcourse, in comparison, also offers job opportunities to inmates in order for them to learn new skills and gain experience that is valuable to them post-release (though the focus of these opportunities seemed to be a financial benefit for inmates during their time at Altcourse). Being enrolled in educational courses is an expectation of prisoners that are seeking to gain work within the prison; these courses are structured in the same way as a college and the qualifications are the same as those offered within schools and colleges, with no clear indications that said qualifications were achieved within a prison. Both prison systems use their educations and vocational opportunities to better prepare inmates for their lives once they have been released and encourage prisoners to better their lives and reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
Extracurricular activities are an important part of individual welfare within prisons; both Thorncross and Altcourse provide various opportunities for inmates to maintain productivity and mental stimulation, examples include: gym and sporting facilities, prison radio stations (which were run by prisoners), prison newsletter (The Altcourse Bugle), religious classes and worship spaces, and animal caretaking positions. These activities and opportunities were given as a reward to inmates making progress with their own rehabilitation, and to those in need of mental stimulation (including those suffering with mental health issues).
Prisons that promote rehabilitation rather than punishment are a valuable asset to the criminal justice system in the UK by reducing rates of reoffending and helping to prepare inmates for their future, giving them an opportunity to change. However, these prisons do act as a punishment, with very limited contact with the outside world and very limited personal freedoms. Young people must be aware that life in prison isn’t as easy as the wealth of opportunities may suggest, some inmates never choose to better themselves and gain new skills, violence remains ever-present within these prisons and many inmates involve themselves in activities that can lengthen their sentence. It shouldn’t be somewhere that is ever considered an option by young people, as, despite the opportunities presented, having a criminal record will severely limit your options in later life regardless of your educational and workplace experience.
This was highlighted to us during a conversation with a prisoner at Altcourse prison, who pointed to the top of a group of trees barely visible over the prison walls that surround the facility and remarked that those trees were all he saw of the outside world.
Charlotte Collins Jones and Harry Hughes
Within my first four months as a part of the Cheshire Youth Commission, I have already been able to see the change being a member can have in relation to Cheshire Constabulary. This is due to how they value our opinions and advice on how they interact with young people and deal with issues that impact them.
In our group meetings we have been able to decide on the topics we will focus on in 2019/20, that we all consider to have a significant impact on young people, crime, and the police. These topics include knife crime, unhealthy relationships, and mental health, to name a few.
We have been able to start drafting the foundation of the workshops we want to run and come up with the best way to gather the views of as many young people within Cheshire as we can.
We have had a guest speaker from the RASASC Rape Centre, who explained the work the staff within the centre do in order to support those who come to them for aid. This allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the aid that is available to those affected by sexual assault and unhealthy relationships.
I have also had the opportunity to join other youth commission members in attending a Police and Young People Task Force meeting and a Youth Advisory Group.
In the Police and Young People Task Force meeting, we were able to talk to PCSOs, PCs and a Chief Inspector, where we discussed the interaction the police have in general with young people. We discussed what was currently being done and then offered suggestions on what could be improved. We agreed that the police are more often seen visiting schools in a negative way. For example, to deliver a talk on Anti Social Behaviour issues caused by the youth in the area.
We felt that this could be improved by officers dropping into schools on a more regular basis and making more informal interactions with young people in order to build a better trust and relation between the police and young people. Everyone that attended the meeting all felt like our views were both greatly valued and listened to by the police force.
In addition to this, we also had the opportunity to attend a Youth Advisory Group meeting. Here we discussed cybercrime in Cheshire, what action the police are currently taking and what they want to do in the near future.
This was explained to us by a Detective Sergeant from the Cyber Crime division. We then were able to offer our suggestions on how the police could make young people aware of cybercrime and how it can affect them. Again we thought our views were respected by the Police and would be taken on board going forward within their future projects.
I have greatly enjoyed my time as a part of the Youth Commission so far and I can’t wait to see what projects and change we will make in the foreseeable future.
Thinking of getting involved in the Youth Commission? There's nobody better to hear from than the members themselves. Read what they have to say here:
"I am a long time member of the Youth Commission and have enjoyed my experience immensely so far. We receive a vast amount of opportunities and I feel privileged to hear the views of young people and be able to use those to create change in my community.
"I think the Youth Commission is vital to reach some of the most underrepresented people in Cheshire and give them a chance to improve their future and ours."
"I have been a member of the Commission for over 5 years. To me the importance of the Commission is that it gives young people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity of having their voice heard.
"It also gives Cheshire Police a valuable asset as it is difficult to find out what young people think about the issues we cover. They are much more likely to talk about the issues with their peers.
"From a personal point of view it has helped me with my confidence. I really enjoy sharing what we have talked about with others who have learning difficulties. I feel very important. I enjoy working in teams with other young people and not always being grouped with other young people with learning difficulties.
"I think it is very important for young people to have experience of being in the company of those with diverse needs and backgrounds as it helps with tolerance. I enjoy very much the feeling that I have made a contribution."
"I joined the Cheshire Youth Commission towards the end of lockdown. At the time, I was in my first year of undergraduate study. I am currently a Law Student at the University of Chester. The Youth Commission was a great opportunity to meet new people, gain new skills and training accomplishments whilst also opening doors to career opportunities for myself.
"The Youth Commission has given me a valuable insight to policing in Cheshire and I have also been able to voice my opinions on practices, something that I wouldn't have been able to do before.
"Throughout the year, I have felt guided and supported by my peers and colleagues in order to speak at workshops and other meetings, really enhancing my CV at the same time, such as attending Hydra training with the police. All offers for extra curricular training have been of a very high standard and I look forward to what the project may achieve in the future."
"I have been a part of the Youth Commission for about a year now. During my time with the Youth Commission, I have experienced loads of interesting things, as we attended a lot of meetings. But what I thought was the most interesting out of all, was the one with the Chief Crown Prosecutor, as we got top openly discuss with his about our priorities; women's safety, youth stigma, police cars and custody suites, which I think, I wouldn't have experienced without being a member of the Youth Commission.
"Furthermore, the Commission has given me more than just entertainment and special opportunities, as I got to meet loads of new people, from different backgrounds and professions, but with similar ambition and motives to mine, and got to learn from their experiences and shared mine openly at the same time. This made me more confident than I was, and enhanced my own knowledge at the same time.
"As a newcomer to the UK, I was a bit hesitant of the police and their role with society, but being part of the Youth Commission emphasized my viewpoint on the police and created the trust that I never thought I would have. And in the future, I would hope if I could deliver more of my knowledge and understanding of the police role to my community by continuing to be a part of the Youth Commission."
The Youth Commission carries out work to help engage young people across Cheshire on issues relation to policing and crime. Take a look at some of their work here.