Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, visited Dunstable’s specialist youth club and adult day centre for members with Special Educational Needs to link the outstanding centre with the Force for training and support to protect the most vulnerable.
Commissioner Holloway toured the Kids in Action youth club for under 18s, and The Base, call in centre for older members, on Wednesday 24 April 2019 at the Apex Business Centre, Boscombe Road, Dunstable. The centre, which is unique in Bedfordshire, includes leisure facilities such as a cafe, soft play area, dance floor, computer games club and screening room. The building works as a drop in centre for adults with special needs between 10am and 2pm every Wednesday and as a club for children, including a Saturday youth club and weekly disco.
“I genuinely consider this centre is truly exceptional as it allows both children and adults with special needs to be themselves and enjoy the freedoms and leisure activities that others take completely for granted. Too often, those with special educational requirements and disabilities are excluded from the sheer enjoyment of all of these facilities. The staff are quite outstanding and, even on the basis of a single visit, it was absolutely clear that they know every member as an individual and welcome their carers too,” said Commissioner Holloway.
“Not only that but I spoke to several families who find the centre to be absolutely invaluable as it links them to other families facing similar challenges around disabilities from autism to cerebral palsy. As a mother myself, I can only begin to imagine how isolating it must be if you don’t have somewhere like Kids in Action and The Base to entertain your children, at any age, or to meet others who are coping with the same issues,” she said.
The Commissioner explained the work that her office and Bedfordshire Police are doing to show those running organisations for vulnerable people the signs to look for to avoid their members and clients being exploited by criminals; including the practise of “cuckooing” - in which drug dealers groom vulnerable individuals into considering them as friends, before invading and taking over their homes for dealing.
PCC Holloway also spoke of the work of the force to safeguard vulnerable people online as part of the national Prevent programme, to protect them from radicalisation of any kind, in which groups also look to befriend and influence those who appear isolated.
“Kids in Action and The Base are currently looking to make a £650,000 investment in buying, rather than renting, their building; they tell me they receive no handouts from any government organisation and provide a superb service for their members of every age, which is not being provided elsewhere. My office is to be involved in fund-raising for them, as a result of our visit, through a member of my staff who already works as part of a social group which raises funds for children.
“I cannot think of a more deserving case and hope local community fundraising groups across the county, and particularly those in Dunstable, really get behind an organisation which is demonstrably changing lives for the better,” she said.
Paul Bowen-James, who runs Kids in Action and The Base, said the centre is already visited by special needs groups from as far afield as London boroughs, as nothing similar seems to exist elsewhere.
He said: “We have come on leaps and bounds since I established the charity 23 years ago. We now welcome around 250 members every week and continue to go from strength to strength.
“I was delighted to welcome Commissioner Holloway to the club and really enjoyed spending time with her talking about what we do and are trying to achieve.
“There is a lot of crossover between ourselves and the police and areas where we can help each other and work together, which I am hoping we can all do off the back of this initial meeting.”