“Being involved with HUSSO as a volunteer and project leader has been absolutely incredible and I could not have asked for anymore! It has allowed me to explore different career aspects, helping those in a stressful time with their vulnerability and my leadership as project leader has improved so many skills that will assist me in my future legal career that I never would have held the confidence to do otherwise.”Chloe Crooks, LLB Law student, HUSSO Appropriate Adult Project Leader
Volunteering can often provide a valuable additional experience to a student’s time at university. Alongside the opportunity to make a positive impact for someone else, they can often provide insights, skills and learning that go on to shape career decisions. In this article, we meet some of the volunteers behind an award winning project who are seeking funding for vital mental health first aid training.
The HUSSO Appropriate Adult scheme is the first of its kind to be led by a student union in the UK. With no legal legislation to send appropriate adults to vulnerable adult detainees (unlike children), vulnerable adults are often overlooked and don’t receive the support that they need. Recognising this gap, the project leaders worked with the Student Union, HUSSO and the Crime Commissioner to rectify this. Having started with only 9 volunteers in 2018, they now have a membership of over 50 people and their work has saved the police £11,000 of public money.
“The needs of people vary from case to case, some people have learning disabilities so I’m there just to make sure that everything that is said is fully understood and clarify anything if needed to,” says project leader Abigail Cooper (Psychology). “Some of the adults can have quite bad mental illnesses like schizophrenia so they’re often anxious about certain processes like their DNA being taken, in cases like this you’ve got to try really hard to be reassuring and try and reason with them and use logic but without belittling anyone.”
Fellow project leader Chloe Crooks (LLB Law) adds: “We help them in a number of ways by supporting them in what works best for them and what they need support with at that time. Whether this be repeating something, explaining something in simpler terms, asking officers to reduce tone and pressures, or using different wording these would be a few examples.”
“I have also had the opportunity to work with a victim of a crime,” Abigail says, “which is unusual, but I found that I was there mainly to offer support and make her feel as though there was somebody on her side who was willing to help.”
The students are raising £3,400 to cover the cost of Mental Health First Aid training for 16 students, which will provide vital skills that will help them to carry out their duties and make a difference.
“We have been given extensive training such as adult safeguarding and appropriate adult training, however due to the nature of our role and the current climate we feel that mental health first aid training would be extremely beneficial to the vulnerable adults. We have contact with individuals who experience mental health problems on a daily basis. Often symptoms can be worsened due to the stress and anxiety of being in custody. As we are able to talk one-to-one with detainees, we can use this time to offer support and reduce their feelings of distress, improving their wellbeing and taking some pressure off the custody staff.”
In addition to the social good that the students are doing, and the help that they are providing the police and the vulnerable adults in question, their experience has also provided them with valuable experience that will help them in the careers going forward.
“Being involved in HUSSO has given me lots of opportunities and experience career wise and it’s helped me build connections that I can use in the future,” Abigail says. “Before university I wasn’t 100% what I wanted to do with my degree but now I know I want to get involved in some aspect of the police force helping those in terms of preventing them from having further interactions with the police, or working with people after they have gotten out of prison to help prevent re-offending.”
“I took the opportunity of becoming project leader for something new to become a part of and for the development of my personal skills. I also got involved to run what I believed was a project with great potential which has proved to be correct through our 4 award wins & masses of appreciation.” says Chloe.