Wellbeing boxes containing items to support vulnerable victims and witnesses when attending a police station have been introduced by Durham Constabulary.
The boxes have been introduced by the force’s Autism Association to help support victims and witnesses who are neurodiverse when they find themselves in the unfamiliar surroundings of a police station.
They contain different types of sensory items such as fidget spinners, PlayDoh, velvet material and brushes to help make users feel at more ease, less anxious and able to communicate more easily with professionals.
The boxes have been funded by Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen, and will be available at the force’s main stations across County Durham and Darlington.
Project lead and deputy force lead for autism, Sergeant Matt Heinzman, said: “The rollout of the wellbeing boxes in force is something we are proud of for the benefit of all victims and witnesses within our policing areas.
“This is one of the many projects that we have ongoing, and we hope to follow this in due course with further ways of supporting the neurodiverse community.”
Joy Allen, Police and Crime Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, added: “I fully support the roll out of these wellbeing boxes and the efforts undertaken by the force to cater for the needs of victims and witnesses of crime who have additional needs, including autism.
“Police stations can be frightening and unsettling places for most people but especially for those with autism who can find the environment extremely distressing. These wellbeing boxes will help alleviate some of the initial stress factors and provide comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.
“Police forces have a duty of care to protect all witnesses and victims of crime, especially the vulnerable, and I am pleased these needs are being addressed with sensitivity, compassion and understanding.”
The boxes were inspired by wellbeing boxes created by Emily’s Gift, which was set up following the tragic death of Shildon teenager Emily Moore, who died in 2020 having suffered with mental health problems. The charity offers support to other young people and families with their mental health.
PC Lisa Hall, force lead for autism said: “I was fortunate enough in my role as a response officer to have spent time with Emily who opened up to me about the different sensory items she had with her, and what benefit they gave her.
“Her passion was to become a social worker so that she could help others. I hope in Emily’s memory through the wellbeing boxes and supporting Emily’s Gift we can continue her passion and legacy to help our vulnerable victims and witnesses.”