Evon Wheeler, Volunteer Police Cadets

Describe your role

I work with the Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) which is a uniformed youth organisation for 14 - 19 years in London. My role is varied and involves ensuring positive publicity for the cadets and the community work they are involved in as well as event planning. The cadets take part in a wide range of activities from assisting at the London Marathon to providing crime prevention information in their local communities.

The aim of the VPC is to: 

  • Promote and encourage a practical interest in policing among young people 
  • Provide training which will encourage positive leadership within communities
  • Encourage the spirit of adventure and develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship.

What makes a good participation worker? 

I think you have to have an active interest in young people and an understanding of what drives and motivates them. I think it’s really important to change the negative perception that is often portrayed about young people. Our cadets are shining examples of the younger generation and it’s about getting that message out there.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people? 

We need to ensure that young people are signposted to the positive opportunities that are available to them regardless of their background or financial circumstances. The VPC has the stated aim of including within its membership young people who have been identified as being vulnerable to crime or social exclusion. 

What are the benefits?

Many of our young cadets are inspirational and put a lot of adults to shame! One of our cadets has set up his own Safer Neighbourhood watch. He wasn’t happy with what was happening on his housing estate so he took into his own hands to do something about it. He knocked on every door in the local area and spoke to all the residents about what they wanted and since then he has made a real difference to his estate. We also see young people’s journey through life and the difference that with the right support how they can turn their lives around.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?

I think to effectively engage with young people you need to be inventive in your approach. Last year we did an extensive Training Needs Analysis (TNA) with both our cadets and our coordinators using online surveys, focus interviews and workshops. The cadets had the opportunity to share and discuss their ideas and perspectives, ask questions and be creative about the future of the VPC. Topics covered include training, leadership, organisation, culture, activities and engagement. We also hold Head cadet nights on a regular basis to gain valuable insight into how the programme can be developed and improved.

What is effective participation?

It’s really important to us that the VPC meets the needs of our cadets and so effective participation is at the core of what we do. This means we are always seeking out new ways to consult and engage with our young people. At the moment we are working on a high tech IT platform which will allow our cadets to converse with us in a safe but user friendly environment. We have also recently piloted a Btec qualification in Public Services. This was an outcome from the TNA, our cadets want to be rewarded and recognised for what they do. If the pilot proves successful we will provide training and support to any cadets who would normally find the cost of the qualification prohibitive. When our cadets eventually leave us we want to ensure they’ve been given the best opportunities available to them, whether this is qualifications, Duke of Edinburgh awards or memories of a great time they’ve spent with us.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB