An all-Wales programme to transform the way in which police and partner agencies deal with the most vulnerable people in society has received funding of £6.87 million from the Home Office.
Earlier this year a collaborative bid between the four Police and Crime Commissioners, four Chief Constables, Public Health Wales and a range criminal justice and voluntary sector partners across Wales was submitted to the Police Transformation Fund for a three year period from 2017-2020.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd today announced allocation of the funding which will be used to transform policing vulnerability in Wales to a multi-agency approach which enables early intervention and root cause prevention.
It follows work to highlight the devastating impact of those who suffer Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on society.
A Public Health Wales Welsh ACEs study demonstrated that 14% of adults living in Wales (aged 18-69 years) had experienced four or more ACEs before reaching the age of 18.
These individuals were 20 times more likely to be incarcerated at any point in their lifetime, 16 times more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin, 15 times more likely to have committed violence against another person in the last 12 months and 14 times more likely to have been a victim of violence in the last 12 months, compared to those with no ACEs.
Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, said: "It is a key principle for the police service to intervene quickly whenever problems first emerge which is why I am delighted that this ambitious programme has been supported by the Police Transformation Fund as we look to break the generational cycle of offending.
"We have known for decades that the impact of bad things that happen in a child's early years can have a devastating impact throughout adult life, but it took the research by Public Health Wales to quantify that impact and demonstrate the significance of Adverse Childhood Experiences to every professional working with people and to the public generally. Great if we can prevent those bad things happening, but we also need to intervene promptly and positively when their impact on individuals is identified. Think how much more we can do to improve our communities and keep people safe if we succeed in preventing many of the incidents that involve violence and drugs and that lead to imprisonment."
The partnership behind the funding bid hope to see a number of positive outcomes, including a better informed and skilled workforce which can proactively respond to individuals as well as increased vulnerability awareness among frontline staff.
It also aims to reduce repeat demand, develop more appropriate and consistent sharing of information about vulnerability, increased public confidence and victim satisfaction and reduced demand on policing and partners.
Mr Michael added: "Ultimately many of the benefits of this programme will be realised after the funding period - this is about embedding cultural change and a different way of working into every day practice - and that will take time.
"Tackling ACEs is a priority for all of us and the benefits of reducing ACEs will be felt by everyone in Wales."
Deputy Chief Constable Matt Jukes of South Wales Police said: "The police are often the first agency to be in contact with children or families in need of help and early intervention can prevent problems before they escalate. No response or investigation will ever be better than preventing a crime in the first place. Often the police forces of Wales are the agencies who can act to keep people safe in the short-term but for the long-term, we have to work closely with others.
"Demands on police are changing with as much of 89% of police contact with the public now related to complex welfare, safety and vulnerability issues. We still have a vital role to play in delivering criminal justice but we hope this programme will mean over time we can ensure our investigative resources are focused on the cases of greatest need and that we reduce the number of victims who need that response at all."
Tracey Cooper, Public Health Wales Chief Executive said: "The Public Health Wales Adverse Childhood Experiences studies have clearly shown the link between early childhood harms and the risk of developing anti-social health harming behaviours on adult life. The health and social consequences of ACEs span from childhood to adulthood with significant implications for many public sector organisations and it is clear that we must all work together to create sustainable, effective solutions.
"As this successful Police Transformation Funding bid shows, policing and criminal justice are leading the way in translating the evidence into action and developing a multi-agency ACE-informed approach in Wales to policing vulnerability. I am delighted that Public Health Wales will be working alongside the four Forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and other partners in Wales to break the generational cycles of ACEs and vulnerability as we strive for a healthier, happier and more sustainable future for everyone."
Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy, Research and International Development for Public Health Wales said, "We are delighted to be working closely with police across Wales to prevent traumatic and abusive childhoods and address the long-term impacts they can have on people's lives. The award of additional funds for this work from the Home Office is a mark of success for what we have already achieved by working together. The new funding will accelerate our joint efforts to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences and ensure our public services can support those whose lives have already been affected by harmful childhoods."