Bedfordshire Police has chosen national Hate Crime Awareness Week to launch 'Pegasus' - a new scheme to help those with autism, or other communication difficulties, when coming into contact with the emergency services.
The scheme - in association with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the East of England Ambulance Service Trust - is designed to assist those who live or work in the county, are independent in the community, with or without home help or care, and who have an illness or disability which makes it hard to speak or make themselves understood in a difficult situation.
Registration is easy and free-of-charge, and involves giving just a few simple details, including an outline of their condition. In return, they will receive a membership card and a PIN.
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When calling for assistance, the card holder simply needs to say “Pegasus” and quote the PIN for call handlers to provide the appropriate information to responding officers. There is also a Textphone option.
The card can also be shown in person to a police officer, paramedic or fire fighter.
Sheila Forder, Bedfordshire Police’s lead on autism, said: “We are committed to providing the best possible service to our communities.
“Pegasus was originally conceived as a scheme to help those with autism spectrum disorders, but we know that there are many other conditions and disabilities which cause communication difficulty, and can be a barrier when contacting the emergency services.
“A focus group event, which was attended by almost 100 people earlier in the year, gave us insight into how we could assist those needing help, but who might struggle to give vital information in a stressful situation, such as reporting a crime.
“We believe that this scheme, which is similar to those already operating very successfully in other counties, will give some of our more vulnerable residents a much-needed lifeline to help when it is needed most.”
The scheme is free and all information provided will be held securely.
Sergeant Carl Perri, the force’s lead on hate crime, said: “We know that disability hate crime often goes unreported. When hostility is displayed towards someone with a disability, all too often the victim does not have the confidence to come forward and report the incident.
“Pegasus will provide a valuable route for those with disability to seek support or help and when they do, we can take action to support victims and prosecute offenders for the greater good of the community."
Pegasus is available to those who live within Bedfordshire who find it hard to communicate with the police or other emergency services in a difficult or stressful situation.
Pete Buckingham, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service's Community Safety Team Manager, said: “We are proud to be involved with the Pegasus scheme.
"Anything that helps members of the community who would otherwise have difficulty accessing the help they need in times of emergency, has our full support and backing.”
Those who care for people with communication difficulties can also register on behalf of someone else.
For more information and to join online visit: www.bedfordshire.police.uk/Pegasus.