Karen Templeton-Mepstead, Community Access Services Manager, describes how Autism Hampshire worked with the Hampshire Constabulary to develop the Autism Alert Programme and raise awareness of autism with the Police.
Author: Karen Templeton-Meptstead
The Autism Alert Programme
In 2008 after undertaking research into the number of people with autism who encountered problems whilst in contact with the Police and Emergency Services we commenced an 8 year programme which rolled out the following 3 elements:
- The Autism Card in 2008 in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary and the Office of Police and Crime Commissioners. The Card can identify people with autism when shown.
- The Car Sticker in 2009 in partnership with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and South Central Ambulance Service. The Car Sticker is placed on the left hand side inside the car window. It is blank on outside but looks similar to the Card and identifies to emergency services that someone in the car may have autism.
- The Autism App in 2011 in partnership with Crimson Tide. The App has the Card feature as it main screen but also has individual strategies to support the specific person who has the app on their phone, including a traffic light emotion highlighter for the individual with supporting strategies.
All three elements are joined together to become ‘The Autism Alert Programme’. This article focuses on the work we have done with the Hampshire Constabulary.
Funding for this programme was allocated from Autism Hampshire, Hampshire Police and The Office of Police and Crime Commissioners. The programme won the iESE (Improvement and Efficiency Social Enterprise) Police Project of the Year award in 2011.
Given the importance of the programme, Autism Hampshire has worked with the Constabulary to look at how best to support not only the person with autism, but the police officers themselves. In this respect the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner gave their support for all 6,000 frontline personnel to attend autism awareness sessions. To date, 3,000 officers have received input with plans to undertake sessions with the remaining officers.
During the awareness sessions Autism Hampshire received disclosures from police officers who had autism. Autism Hampshire discussed their findings with the Constabulary and started to work with their Human Resource Team to support internally as well as externally. This partnership has developed a support group for staff within the Constabulary who either had autism or had a family member with autism to help support and inform.
To complement this, the Constabulary have also developed an Autism Working Group to support staff with autism to have a voice. Their Human Resources Department have since written the first employers policy for autism.
Easy Read Custody Sheets
In 2013-2014 Autism Hampshire in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary, Widget (a commercial educational company) and The Appropriate Adults Service (TASS) undertook a further project to support both people in custody and the officers engaged with them. The biggest hurdle as with all projects was securing funding, as Criminal Justice projects are not perhaps as high profile as some other projects which have greater appeal, however, the partnership felt that it was an important project and allocated the much needed funding.
Once initially developed, the partnership commissioned Southampton University to undertake research on the Easy Read Custody Sheets piloted. Hampshire Constabulary thereafter introduced these and are now in the process of adopting them as part of their procedures.
Outcomes achieved to date for both programmes
- There has been positive feedback from professionals and people on the spectrum on both projects with the Easy Read Custody Sheets supported by University of Southampton research
- The Constabulary have now adopted the Easy Read Custody Sheets as part of their process to support individuals and staff alike
- The Autism Alert Card and Sticker are recognised by all officers within Hampshire Constabulary
- People in custody process have felt supported and informed with a greater understanding of what is happening during their process
- We understand there is interest from other Constabularies nationally in the projects and a number have or are in the process of developing the Autism Alert Programme
- Police knowledge on autism has been raised enabling support both internally and externally resulting in better outcomes
Future developments planned
Currently, with our partners, we are actively campaigning to have both projects adopted nationally by the Association of Chief Police Officers and Police College with the support of Hampshire Constabulary.
There is consideration being given to the App being adopted nationally and we are also working with Hampshire Constabulary to look at how we can support Officers within the force to access promotion boards by supporting the promotion process to be fair for all.
Date added: 15 March 2016