Merseyside Police showcases creative way to support vulnerable people into support services


Officers from the Wirral Local Community Policing team working on the delivery of Project Adder are pioneering a creative art project as part of a national initiative to divert people away from drug use and into support services.

Constables Diane Park and Emily Scarratt have been visiting the hostels on a regular basis and engaging with service users, it was during this time that it became apparent that some of the service users had a talent for art, which was going unnoticed. 

More than 50 vulnerable people, most of them residents of local hostels on the Wirral have embraced the opportunity to create a piece of art, with some attending workshops.

The We’ve Got HeART exhibition will be opened today (February 8th at   2pm) by Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell, at The Oakland Gallery in New Brighton.

Using art to engage with hard-to-reach people was originally the idea of Constable Diane Park. With the support of Inspector Alan McKeon. The idea grew and ‘We’ve Got HeART’ project was created.

Alan and Diane, both met with the owner of Oakland Contemporary Art Gallery, Dan Davies and managed to secure his backing, to utilise the Gallery for an Exhibition of ‘The Artists’ work, which will be on show to the public for 3 weeks.

The artwork ranges from drawings to paintings, sculptures, poems, and photography.  This exciting opportunity offers the artists a unique opportunity to showcase their work at a venue which is open to the public.

Each piece of art will somewhere within it, contain a heart for a collective entitled ‘We’ve Got HeART’

The art project is a part of Project ADDER, a government initiative on drugs enforcement.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “Policing alone cannot tackle the issue of drugs in our community, that’s why it’s vital we combine enforcement with treatment and support through a whole-system approach.

“Prevention is absolutely essential, and this project is a fantastic example of how the police are working with partners to explore innovative new ways to engage with vulnerable people to support them away from crime and help them to channel their energy into something much more positive.

“Ultimately, if we can help people to tackle and overcome their addictions, we will help to prevent crime, have fewer victims and build stronger, safer communities. My thanks go to everyone involved in this valuable project.”

Inspector Susan Stribling, who leads Project ADDER, said:” Although there must be a level of enforcement involved in our fight against drugs, this whole-system approach is about raising awareness of the treatment services available for people to help them overcome their drugs use.

“Referring users into treatment programmes helps to break the business model that drives the illegal drugs trade and therefore helps protect vulnerable people. Merseyside is one of a handful of regions given home Office funding to tackle the illegal drugs trade at all levels.

“We are all very excited to see the event come together and see the varied and vibrant work now on show on the walls of the gallery. This is real progress in our work to engage with harder to reach individuals.”

Inspector Alan McKeon added: “We discussed this whole concept of running art workshops, and it seemed like a good opportunity to involve people who had previously refused any engagement with police or support services but did have a keen interest in art.  

“Throughout the project Diane has been able to keep track on progress of the artists within the facilities and the staff have been amazed by some individuals who have engaged in the project who previously have been difficult or impossible to engage with and manage. 

“This has provided a steady platform for many to finally have a conversation with staff or police about being signposted into treatment.  This has enabled hard to reach offenders to address their substance use which was the root cause of their offending and often problematic behaviours.  By treating the cause of the crime helps to prevent offending in the first place – addressing the cause of the problem and not the symptom of it.   In addition, this has identified some talented artists who would otherwise have been over-looked.”

PC Diane Park said seeing the progress and growing self-worth of the artist’s taking part has been one of the most rewarding things she has done in her career.

“In terms of the art they are aware it is not a competition we know they already have enough challenges in their way, so we wanted this to be an inclusive activity.”

Daniel Davies is CEO of Rockpoint Leisure and runs The Oakland Gallery which is part of a larger successful regeneration project:  “Diane and Alan approached me and explained that the community they were working with were enjoying communicating through the medium of artwork.

“I thought what would be better for them, than to actually have somewhere which is a public space where they can exhibit their work. There will be a lot of interest from people who will come into the gallery and enjoy seeing a good news story.”

“This is the sort of initiative that breaks down barriers and makes a tangible difference.”

“We’ve got HeART, hopefully will be the first of many exhibitions and if we get it right here it can be replicated in other areas in the UK.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with Diane and Alan, these are police officers making an actual difference.”

The workshops are set to continue with support from the Oakland Gallery volunteers to offer an ongoing outlet for creativity and a diversion for hostel residents and service users. 

Artwork at Exhibition

PCC and Police officer looking at artwork