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An update from Stanley Booth MBE, MindWise's Appropriate Adult Scheme and Advocacy Services Manager:
In early 2018, MindWise’s Northern Ireland Appropriate Adult Scheme (NIAAS) launched an online booking system to make it easier for PSNI officers to book one of our Appropriate Adult (AA) staff.
Our Appropriate Adult staff regularly attend police stations at the request of officers to support a mentally vulnerable adult or a young person under 18 who is in police custody.
The AA supports the vulnerable person through the custody process and safeguards their welfare. Our AAs have experience in diverse areas such as nursing, youth work, social work, education and training, detention and justice, and community work.
The new online booking system enables a PSNI officer to book in one of our AA staff, typically about two to four weeks in advance, knowing that the person they want to question will be attending the station at that time as part of their bail conditions.
We designed the online system so it can be easily accessed by a PSNI officer through their smart phone, tablet and computer, either in an office or car. Not only would it help us to save money on phone calls, we also knew that in the past there had been occasional issues with phone communication... 'Who said what?' 'Was it Antrim Road or Antrim Town?' 'Lisburn Road or Lisburn Town?’
You can imagine how problematic it could be if our AA staff member turned up on time at Antrim Road in Belfast only to find the police officer had actually requested Antrim Town. With our online booking system nothing is lost in translation.
While we continue to take immediate attendance requests by phone, this year with the pandemic our online bookings have overtaken the immediate response calls.
Recently, we reached our 1000th online booking. We’re pleased that the 1000th booking was picked up by Mervyn Smith, a very skilled AA. Since joining us in 2015, Mervyn has taken 1,781 call-outs to police stations, and he provides key support in the west of the province, attending stations mainly in the Omagh and Enniskillen area. Mervyn goes out of his way to help staff by taking calls when he is not on shift and at weekends, to save his colleagues an arduous journey West.
Mervyn plays a key role in helping us to meet targets. As part of a call handling team, he also helps us to secure 24/7 attendance at calls. Mervyn has a vast amount of experience in this field of work and he brings a quiet and confident approach to the role of Appropriate Adult. In short, Mervyn lives the MindWise values and is a great ambassador for MindWise in that part of the province.
Well done to Mervyn and all the NIAAS team on this important milestone!
Discover more about how MindWise supports mentally vulnerable adults and young people who are in police custody on our Criminal Justice information page.
Advice and resources for looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.