A group of 30 young people who make up the county's first-ever Youth Commission - set up to directly influence policing priorities in the future - has met for the first time.

The virtual meeting, which took place on Saturday, is the first step in providing the newly-formed commission with a platform to discuss policing, crime and community safety matters in Wiltshire and Swindon.

All of the issues discussed form part of a wider strategy by Wiltshire's Office of the Police Crime Commissioner aimed to enable young people, including underrepresented groups, have a stronger voice on issues that affect their lives and directly influence priorities.

The project, run by Leaders Unlocked on behalf of the OPCC, will see priorities set and a number of reports, with feedback and recommendations written, to ensure that young people’s views and experiences are reflected in the next police and crime plan.

Discussion points at the first meeting, attended by Acting Police and Crime Commissioner Kieran Kilgallen, included mental health, online safety, child exploitation and the rights of young people when engaging with the police.

"Our pledge to form a Youth Commission has come to fruition and I am delighted that, ahead of a new PCC taking office, we have held our first meeting," Kieran said. 

“A priority in the current police and crime plan is to secure a trusted and efficient police force and the Youth Commission will give us a measure of how young people perceive the police, but also inform the new PCC’s police and crime plan for their term in office.

“It was perhaps unsurprising that a key area identified was mental health and different elements that can influence that, with the role of social media also being discussed which is particularly timely given recent events.”

The Youth Commission will also add to the number of ways in which the OPCC engages with residents, of all ages, across the county.

Supt Phil Staynings, from Wiltshire Police, also attended the meeting and was impressed by how engaged and insightful the young people were.

He said: “This project will ensure that young people and underrepresented groups have a say in how their communities are policed and how key issues they identify should be tackled.

“There was a broad spectrum of young people from a variety of different backgrounds, all of whom offered a different perspective.

“It was great to see, and hear, and I'm glad the OPCC is working with the Force on closing the gap in listening to young people’s voices which in turn will help shape community policing.”

Leaders Unlocked provides young people with a platform to influence decisions about policing and crime prevention. In partnership with a number of OPCCs nationally, they have developed the Youth Commission model to enable young people to inform policing decisions in their regions.

Initial feedback from some of the Youth Commission members:

“I thought the meeting was incredibly productive and the whole team feels incredibly welcoming and passionate. I believe this team is incredibly important for presenting the issues that matter to young people who matter, and I believe we can drive to make good changes very soon.” Ben, 17

“First of all, I’d like to say that I really liked the fact that everyone listened and showed positivity towards people’s thoughts and opinions, which made me feel really comfortable. 

"Everyone in the group was friendly and engaged. I enjoyed listening to everyone’s personal experiences with crime and the fact that everyone was very open. Everyone was very supportive of other people’s ideas and sympathetic.” Taniqua, 17.

“The Youth Commission is a perfect opportunity for young minds to come together to help create change. I look forward to learning from everyone in the Youth Commission with the sharing of ideas, knowledge and experiences.” Kene, 17