28 December 2022
In July this year PFEW opened its membership to all serving special constables after a decades long campaign to have this possibility written into legislation.
The Special Constabulary has been in existence since its founding in 1831; special constables serve alongside full-time police officers, exposing themselves to the same risks, the same dangers and the same stresses, but without the same support structure. They previously lacked any formal representation or representative body, an oversight that we are very happy to have now remedied.
Their contribution is invaluable, in 2021 alone specials volunteered over three million hours on duty.
It is remarkable that for so long specials had none of the security that regular cops have when they join PFEW. No access to our specially trained and accredited Federation reps, nor our legal service providers and other experts, all who work tirelessly to support officers in their daily duties, particularly at times of stress and worry.
Opening PFEW to specials allows them access to all this support and in-so-doing provides a level of backup and representation that they previously lacked through no fault of their own. The move also means specials will now have their voice heard on a parity with all other cops.
With more than 9000 serving specials, it has been important for the process of rolling out the offer of membership to be as coordinated and stress free as possible. It is equally important to acknowledge specials are volunteers, they give up their time for free, and so many had anxiety of the financial burden of membership; something we are pleased to try and alleviate, coordinating with all English and Welsh forces to ensure that fees were covered by forces or reimbursed directly into accounts.
We contacted Merseyside Special Constabulary to hear its experience of the process and how it worked together with Merseyside Police Federation reps to open PFEW membership to specials – a learning process that helped bring about even closer ties between colleagues.
This is Merseyside Special Chief Inspector Hart’s experience of the process in her own words:
I joined Merseyside Special Constabulary in 2008 and have since risen, proudly, to Merseyside special chief inspector. But it is only recently the Special Constabulary has been considered for PFEW membership, and as Merseyside special chief inspector it was right that I lead in rolling-out the strategy for all Specials to join PFEW should they wish.
Working closely with Dave Lowe, Secretary of Merseyside PFEW Branch, we began to formulate the best strategy to roll-out the membership process to all specials. Dave’s support and attention to detail was key to providing clarity and an understanding of PFEW, its structure, its benefits to members, and its internal processes.
I was particularly impressed with the time and effort that Dave, and by extension PFEW, put into understanding my concerns for my colleagues - from understanding the most effective way to communicate with us (we use Duty Sheet), to ensuring that the process was as inclusive as possible, even helping with website updates and maintenance. The success of the work Dave and I put into opening the process to all is visible in the uptake, with more than 90 specials already signed up as PFEW members.
PFEW is funded by membership fees and the collection of these fees was a valid concern for my colleagues. Our anxieties were listened to on this sensitive subject, and an agreed method by which payment is collected directly from the force was settled upon. I was very impressed with the co-ordination between Dave, as PFEW branch secretary, and Head of People Operations and Service Delivery Jennifer Pennifold, in arriving at this solution that kept all parties happy.
The support and involvement of Dave Lowe has been critical at every step in the roll-out of PFEW membership for the Merseyside Special Constabulary, from initial conversations, fact finding, negotiations of payment structure, to co-authoring the welcome letter and PFEW invite.
We look forward to his continued support and that of PFEW in working closely with the Merseyside Special Constabulary.
On the other side of the equation, it was a new experience for Dave to help coordinate and deliver the membership proposal to the force's special colleagues. We asked Dave to record his thoughts on the process and how he and Chief Inspector Hart worked together to make the new legislation a reality.
Following the decision to open PFEW membership to our special constable colleagues, it fell to me to manage the roll-out process and act as a link between PFEW and Special Chief Inspector Hart who would be managing the project on behalf on the Merseyside Special Constabulary.
My relationship with Chief Inspector Hart was crucial to building my understanding of the work responsibilities and culture of the specials, and perhaps most importantly, which communication channel would be most successful for the campaign. Without such a close-working relationship it would not have been possible to best support all those specials who were keen to join PFEW after completing their required 12 months of service.
Chief Inspector Hart was keen to represent her officer’s best interests across all aspects of potentially joining PFEW, and this included understanding and mitigating concerns over membership fees. With great attention to detail, and collaboration between myself, Chief Inspector Hart and Jennifer Pennifold, we were able to satisfy those concerns and devise a payment structure that minimised the financial impact for those specials wishing to join PFEW.
We have managed, too, to incorporate an insurance scheme that extends across from our group insurance provider that covers all other officers to cover specials with a bespoke package tailored to their specific needs, something that would have previously proved unimaginable if not impossible.
Such has been the success of this process, that the close collaboration between Chief Inspector Hart and me continues, as we both strive to ensure PFEW membership is a burden free reality for all serving specials.
It is encouraging for us all at PFEW to read such positive stories of collaboration between our members and those newest to PFEW membership. By opening membership to all officers, special and regular, we have taken steps to make sure we can provide support to anyone in a police uniform should they ever find themselves struggling.