Appeal for more to train as Appropriate Adults to safeguard rights of vulnerable in custody

A charity is appealing for more people to train as Appropriate Adults to help safeguard the rights and welfare of children and vulnerable people in custody.

The role ensures those suspected of a criminal offence are treated in a fair and just manner, and are able to participate effectively.

Megan Riley, 26, from Bury combines her university studies with working as an Appropriate Adult for the charity Child Action North West. She responds to call outs several times a week.

Megan Riley says it's her role to support children and vulnerable people in custody

Megan said: "Police stations are often very busy and very loud with lots of volatile people in them. It can be a scary environment for anyone - let alone somebody who is vulnerable - a child or somebody suffering from an illness so the main thing is to make sure you get them through this process as smoothly as possible."

The role can involve supporting children from as young as 10 to the very elderly.

What is an Appropriate Adult?

"Vulnerable people are either people under 18, or anybody over 18 with a mental health condition, learning disability or a physical disability that can affect your behaviour," Megan added.

"You are a support to somebody on what could be the worst day of their lives so far.

"You support them through that process and a lot of the time you help people get through that process just by being there or knowing their rights a little bit more than they do."

The charity pays the Appropriate Adults (AA) for their time and many people fit the role around other work and family commitments.

Mark Read has been working as an Appropriate Adult for the charity Child Action North West for the past three years

Mark Read has been an AA for three years. He has also got 30 years experience as a teacher.

Mark said: "I think you've got to have your wits about you - you have to be able to think on your feet, and cope with all sorts of different situations and different people.

"Generally speaking - people want us to be there and at the end of the interview they'll shake my hand and thank me for my help."

Ryan was 16 when he was helped by an Appropriate Adult

Ryan was 16 when he ended up in custody. ITV News has protected his identity.

Speaking of his first time in a police station, Ryan said: "It was scary. You don't know how long you're going to be in there for - you don't know if it's going to be days, weeks, months.

"You don't know how long it's going to take for someone to come and talk to you or tell you what's going to happen."

Appropriate Adults support children and vulnerable adults in custody

Ryan says his Appropriate Adult helped him understand what was going on and supported him through the interview process.

He added: "If I didn't understand the words that were being used - they explained it in a way that I could understand."

The charity Child Action North West says it is always keen to recruit more Appropriate Adults.

Michelle Dixon, Child Action North West

Michelle Dixon, Assistant Director at Child Action North West, said: "We really promote to have a diverse Appropriate Adult cohort. We want people with lived experience and a varied skillset.

"It's also a paid role - so it's a sessional opportunity for people to be able to earn a little bit more money in the evenings or weekends.

"But the majority of Appropriate Adults will say the work is reward in itself."

How do I become an Appropriate Adult?

Appropriate Adults come from all walks of life, genders, ages and ethnicities.

It is critical that AA schemes reflect the communities they serve and equality and diversity is critical to the National Standards.

There is no prior experience or qualification required for the appropriate adult role. Each scheme will have its own recruitment guidelines.

You will need to:

  • be able to act with independence from the police (schemes will take into account your attitudes, motivations and any other roles you may hold)

  • undertake training in the AA role

  • be prepared to undertake a criminal record (DBS) check at either the standard or enhanced level. (A criminal record will not necessarily act as an automatic bar in any scheme operating under the National Standards.)

If you would like more information contact 01254 248061 or visit the Child Action North West website.

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