Police outreach effort helps Eastern European community access vital services

Arun Police teamed up with outreach workers from a variety of organisations last week in order to help members of Bognor’s Eastern European community access the services they need.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 3:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 4:08 pm

The exercise saw Arun District Police officers working with outreach workers from Stonepillow and Arun District Council’s Anti-social Behaviour team, as well as volunteers from Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester (VAAC) to support members of Bognor’s Eastern European community with issues like housing, benefits, mental health and substance misuse.

Community Organisations like VAAC and Stonepillow used the exercise as an opportunity to deepen their ties to and connections with vulnerable people in the area.

VAAC in particular organisation is that the challenges of Covid-19 have exacerbated challenges already faced by minority and ethnic communities, contributing to a rise in abuse and discrimination.

Arun Police, Outreach workers and volunteers on the exercise, which took place last week. Photo Arun Police

Organisers hoped that, by taking part in the exercise, they would develop a deeper understanding of shortfalls in local provisions.

Stephanie Mooney,a partnership officer with VAAC, said the exercise was necessary because people don’t always know how to access the help they need.

“There are unhelpful misperceptions and distrust about different communities living in Bognor and this needs to be tackled,” she said. “The way to address this is through positive engagement across different agencies and community conversations.”

In Ms Mooney’s eyes, the initiative was a very real success, building trust during a period of increased vulnerability for the Eastern European community.

“Walking the streets with Arun Police, I did learn a lot,” she said. “I observed that a number of issues had been picked up and a serious crime was reported, which I don’t believe would have happened if this intervention had not taken place. This work needs to continue and engagement deepened.”

Tobias Condron, an outreach support worker with Stonepillow added: “We had a really successful day; Polish and Russian speaking Police officers were able to engage with the EU Nationals by speaking to them in their first language. This is really important as, from our experience, Non-UK nationals are less likely to ask for support from services like ours than their UK counter-parts and it is important that we empower and enable them to ask for help.”

A spokepserson from Arun District Council said: “Working with the Police and our partner agencies to enable members of the community to access support and services is vital. This joined-up approach means that we can reach people that may not always know where to get the help they need and means that we can prioritise their welfare.”

Those who would like to participate in VAAC’s research can do so by taking part in this questionnaire.