Recognising the need for an Appropriate Adult

For any vulnerable adult in custody having access to an appropriate adult is vital in preventing unnecessary anguish and stress during the legal process.

Yesterday’s national media coverage regarding a lack of provision for adults who may have a learning disability or mental health issues highlights a growing need for better access to training and resources for members of the police force.

There to Help’ published by the National Appropriate Adult Network was commissioned by the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, and looked at the “current (Appropriate Adult) arrangements for vulnerable adults” with an aim to “identify shortcomings in provision, and develop recommendations” (There to Help report).

Being in custody is going to be stressful for anyone – if that person has a learning disability or is on the autistic spectrum this anxiety is heightened. A person who may have a learning disability needs support around their understanding of the situation that also meets their communication needs and prevents challenging reactions to the process.

ACT’s CEO Deborah Kitson supports the recommendations made by the report and said “we need to consider carefully what appropriate support means. Vulnerable adults need to be assessed fully and for this to happen the police must have access to trained and confident professionals or relevant friends/family to help people to understand the legal process”

ACT believes that it is crucial for the Police to have access to training that develops Officers awareness of vulnerable adults and the impact that a learning disability can have on someone’s emotional state when in custody. Not having a person’s disability recognised and being isolated will always create a period of heightened distress while in custody.

Deborah Kitson adds “Making sure that those in custody get the right support is vital and Officers have to feel confident in assessing an individual’s needs. The right training for Officers can only make the custodial process less stressful and save Police Forces across the UK considerable time, money and resources”

ACT currently offers training for Police Forces across the UK around understanding learning disability, assessing mental capacity and accessing appropriate adults. For more information about how ACT’s safeguarding training and research can support your organisation contact us or call the ACT office on 0115 951 5400.