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 Durham problem-solving initiative named best in the country


​A PROJECT which supports vulnerable people and reduces demand on frontline emergency services has been crowned the top problem-solving initiative in the country.

The Community Peer Mentor scheme, which is spearheaded by County Durham and Darlington’s Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Ron Hogg, took the top accolade at last night’s Tilley Awards at the National Problem Solving Conference in Staffordshire. 

Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary was also presented with a lifetime achievement award for his services to problem solving.

The awards were relaunched last year after an eight year absence and recognise the best problem-solving initiatives taking place across the country.

They attracted 72 entries from police forces and partner agencies across the UK, with five going through to the national finals – three of which were from Durham.

The Community Peer Mentor scheme supports people who feel they are vulnerable or isolated due to antisocial behaviour, neighbourly disputes or as victims of crime.

Following its launch in 2016, more than 200 volunteers have been trained to work with vulnerable people to identify the root cause of any issues they may be having, empowering them to actively engage with the community and signpost them to appropriate support.

Over the past two years, 240 clients have been supported through the scheme. Analysis carried out on 110 of them has shown a saving of around 40,000 hours of staff time, saving Durham Constabulary just under £1million.

Project coordinator Jim Cunningham said: “I am very humbled and extremely shocked to have won the overall award. The standard of presentations at the event were very high and showed that problem solving has really taken off around the country.

“The volunteers are what makes the Community Peer Mentor scheme so successful - they do a fantastic job in supporting vulnerable people across County Durham and Darlington, so this really is an award for them.”

PCVC Ron Hogg said: “I am delighted that so many police officers from Durham Constabulary have been recognised for their innovative and effective contributions to community safety.

“The work of Jim Cunningham and the Community Peer Mentors has made a huge difference to the lives of so many people, and also been effective in reducing the demand on the force. I would like to thank Jim personally for his hard work, and to congratulate him and all the Peer Mentors for receiving this prestigious and well-deserved award.”

The project will now go through to the Goldstein Awards in America, named after Professor Emeritus Herman Goldstein who conceived and developed the theory of problem-oriented policing.

Two other Durham Constabulary projects made it through to the finals.
Inspector Rachel Stockdale and the Cohesion Team were recognised for their work in implementing the Herbert Protocol, which encourages carers to compile useful information that can be used when a vulnerable person goes missing.

Superintendent Victoria Fuller, Detective Sergeant Victoria Cubby and Investigator Heidi Weir made the final for their work in tackling the risks posed to home schooled ‘invisible children’. Through their investigation, they have reduced the number of elective home educated children who are often at risk of harm due to their isolation.