If anyone saw a member of staff dressed in Wolves Foundation kit in the back of a police car during the Easter holidays, there is no need to be alarmed.
There hadn’t been any wrongdoing or falling foul of the long arm of the law. Quite the opposite.
It was part of an initiative to strengthen the partnership between the Foundation the local police, and also pass on information to young people about the activities which are starting up again in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The successful PL Kicks programme run by the Foundation as part of the national Premier League initiative aims to bring communities together and provide young people who may be at risk of carrying out anti-social behaviour with positive activities to engage in.
One of the key partners involved with the Foundation in Kicks is West Midlands Police, and so Foundation senior manager Lee Smith and inclusion & cohesion officer Luke Shearing felt it would be a good idea to try and spend some time out on patrol with officers and spreading the word to more young people.
“Even before the pandemic, Kicks was never quite as popular during the school holidays as the young people tend to be out and about doing their own thing,” says Luke.
“We asked the police if we would be able to go out with them during Easter, in line with current regulations, and they very kindly agreed.
“Over the second half of the holidays we had at least one member of staff out with them every single day, joining them on their walks around the parks and to some of the potential hotspots for anti-social behaviour.
“A couple of staff also ended up in the back of a police car heading off to another venue which was slightly concerning if anyone had seen them!
“It went really well, and in total we saw over 100 young people that would be in the category to be able to attend Kicks, and gave out business cards including QR codes so they could see when and where all the sessions take place.
“As the sessions now restart we have already had some interest as a result, and it is great to see that we may be able to welcome some new people to Kicks.”
Beyond aiming to spread the Foundation’s message to young people and highlighting the benefits of the Kicks sessions, the link-up also offered a great opportunity to further strengthen the strong working relationships in place with the police.
“The police have always been really supportive of the Kicks initiative, but it was particularly valuable for us to be able to make some extra connections and get reassurance about the work that we do,” added Luke.
“We have now got contact details of a Police Sergeant in the area who is willing to work with us as well as some of the PC’s who are keen to come to sessions which will be really beneficial.
“Before the pandemic, our biggest Kicks sessions in the arena at Aldersley and at Wolverhampton College would have between 50 and 60 young people attending, some of whom will have had ‘run-ins’ with the Police and associated negative connotations.
“We are always trying to get across the fact that the police are on their side and want to help them, so any more contact we can facilitate along these lines will be particularly helpful.”
West Midlands Police Sergeant Chris Turner was also delighted with the success of the link-up.
“It was great for officers to work in partnership with Wolverhampton Wanderers Foundation’s PL Kicks programme,” he said.
“It represented a great opportunity to engage with young people who might otherwise not want to speak with officers.
“The patrols not only enabled us to break down barriers but also provide personal safety advice and we look forward to further joint working.”
With the recent easing of restrictions face-to-face Kicks sessions are now restarting although limited in numbers to 20 young people per hour long session.
All places must also be booked in advance, with walk-ins not permitted at the present time.