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The hidden problem of children who witness police home raids

This week saw the publication of my Fellowship research Collateral Damage. In it, I have sought to shine a light on the hidden problem of children who witness police home raids. These children, whose parents or siblings have committed crimes, are the unseen victims of those crimes, often left deeply traumatised by the raids, and overlooked by the police.

In the report I have sought to make clear recommendations to key groups to encourage them to take some simple steps which have the potential to bring about significant change. But in those recommendations are some important lessons for leaders seeking to bring about change in a far wider range of sectors.

1. Easy does it

In San Francisco, inspired by the testimonies of young people, the Chief of Police has adopted a trauma informed approach to all arrests. This means that the police now do some very simple things to reduce the traumatic impact on children such as getting down to their level to talk to them or, when possible, giving the offender the chance to say goodbye.

It is easy to be lulled into believing that, because a problem exists and is deeply entrenched, only those with the ability to develop complex and intricate responses will be able to bring about solutions. But sometimes the most powerful responses are simple and straightforward. They just need people willing to get on and do them.

2. There's no I in team

Following on from the report, key charities such as Pact and Banardos, have made a commitment to working in partnership with their local police forces to develop solutions - such as the police providing families with contact details for those charities following a raid.

Leaders seeking to bring about social change can't do it in isolation. We must be able to work in partnership, across sectors and within sectors with 'rival' organisations. This means moving beyond the blame game and developing shared goals. And this will often require leaders who are willing to not take the credit or get all of the recognition they might deserve.

3. Talk isn't cheap

It almost defies belief that until now we have been willing to turn a blind eye to the harm being done to the children and siblings of offenders - and to the impact this has on society as we increase the likelihood of them becoming swept up in the currents of criminality. But it does not take many conversations on the topic to realise that this is because as a society we have a deep-rooted belief that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And unless in the longer-term we tackle this narrative, we will never see really systemic change in how these children are treated.

This is the case for many of our most entrenched social issues, yet 'communications' is still seen by many leaders as an afterthought, the fluff to get around to when the real work has been done. But through communications - changing mind-sets, raising awareness, and bringing together stakeholders - we have a chance to move beyond sticking plasters to long-term solutions.

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