PCC joins thoughtful debate on bullying
POLICE and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Nick Alston, took part in a thoughtful debate organised by youngsters, to raise awareness of bullying and what can be done to reduce its impact on young people.
The event, called “Let’s Talk About Bullying”, was organised by members of the Thurrock-based campaign group Greatness over Bullies (G.O.B) and aimed to debate the key issues and the part we can all play to reduce the problem and the harm it causes youngsters.
The panel which led the debate included PCC Alston, Thurrock Council’s leader John Kent and head of its Children’s Services Carmel Littleton, representatives of G.O.B, Natalie Carter from the youth counselling charity Open Door and Paul Hanwell from the Diana Award – which leads a project aimed at building capacity within schools to deal with bullying.
The panel led the debate with an audience made up of youngsters, members of Epping, Southend and Thurrock youth councils, local councillors and students from the Hathaway Academy in Grays.
Topics discussed included: whether bullying should be made a crime with perpetrators convicted; whether young people should be told to “toughen up” and accept bullying as part of life; and whether it would ever be possible to eradicate the problem.
During the debate, the majority of those present felt bullying shouldn’t be criminalised as current laws appropriately covered associated offences such as violence and criminal damage. It was also felt the priority should be to intervene as soon as possible to stop an individual carrying out bullying while addressing underlying problems they may have which cause their behaviour as well as prioritising protecting the victim.
Discussions also saw unanimous agreement that bullying should never be accepted as part of life and by telling youngsters to “toughen up” there could be a danger of laying blame on the victim for failing to stand up for themselves.
There was also hope that although it may not be possible to eradicate bullying entirely, it could be possible to change the culture in which bullying has been allowed to exist by creating a zero-tolerance approach, particularly in schools.
Following the session, Mr Alston said: “I was very grateful to be included in this panel as bullying is a very challenging and complex subject and is undoubtedly extremely damaging for victims.
“I must commend the G.O.B campaign and all the work being done by young people in our county to tackle this issue.
“Whilst we must do everything we can to intervene at the earliest opportunities to prevent future harm to victims, it is important to also ensure the right support is in place for perpetrators, who are often victims of troubling issues themselves.
“I remain committed to continuing to work with the young people of Essex – particularly through my Youth Forum – to really understand the issues they are facing and ensure their experience and ideas are at the forefront of developing strategies to tackle them.”
The event took place on Friday October 31 at the Civic Offices in New Road, Grays.