The festival, which took place online for the first time on Tuesday (3 November) evening due to COVID-19, is designed to celebrate lifelong learning with nominees including inspiring individual learners, outstanding tutors, innovative projects, and employers who have demonstrated a commitment to investing in skills.
Following a period of absence from work and in a bid to help him better understand his own experiences, Insp Barnsley had been researching mental health online.
He decided to sign up for and has completed ten distance learning qualifications with North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, covering areas such as mental health, learning differences and disabilities, neurodiversity and dementia.
As he worked through the courses and while making progress with his own recovery, Insp Barnsley realised how useful his learning would be in the workplace and subsequently began encouraging his colleagues to sign up for the training.
He went on to study challenging behaviour, children and young people’s mental health, Specific Learning Differences, understanding autism, and has brought everything he learnt back to the force.
As a result of his studies, Insp Barnsley, who has been with the force for more than 25 years, was selected to be part of a pilot scheme led by Warwickshire Police to diagnose dyslexia amongst colleagues, The Warwickshire Dyslexia Assessors Group.
He became accredited by the British Dyslexia Association, via Hampshire Police, and has also completed qualifications in supporting adults with memory weakness and improving reading skills for adult learners with dyslexia and screens new recruits to the force - helping to signpost those that need support.
The success of the pilot has also seen him assisting Hampshire Police as well as working with other police forces in Bedfordshire to help them roll out a similar scheme.
Insp Barnsley has been instrumental in setting up a Disability Network for Warwickshire Police, which enables colleagues to share information, knowledge and best practice amongst colleagues.
The staff portal is available to all colleagues and helps to encourage them discuss issues and share possible solutions and also offers enrolment links to many of the courses that he has completed with the college.
Insp Barnsley’s work has seen the force move towards the introduction of a Personal Supportive Passport initiative, which will enable colleagues to flag support needs as it aims to become a ‘Disability Confident’ organisation.
Insp Barnsley has also helped the force to promote diversity and gain acceptance for learning difficulties and disabilities.
He worked with mental health nurse Alex Cotton MBE – founder of the ‘It Takes Balls to Talk’ initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness of men’s mental health – in a joint agency project with the NHS.
As a result of this partnership, the force now operates a mental health triage car that takes a police officer and a psychiatric nurse to incidents involving mental health crisis – enabling people to be treated on an individual basis sometimes in a home setting rather than at a police station.
And following a successful three-month pilot at the end of 2019, funding for this support vehicle has been approved for a further 12 months.
In addition to recommending the courses to his colleagues, Insp Barnsley has also been promoting their benefits among neighbouring forces including Leicestershire Police and within the NHS.
Inspector Barnsley said: “The college courses opened my eyes to what was going on in my own life but also how we as a service interact with those that use our services and can improve those interactions based on understanding.
“I believe that it is always important to take a person-centred approach to policing. Once you know what to look out for, and understand something about different communication styles, it is possible to adapt your behaviour to improve interactions and put yourself in a better position to help.
“I am really grateful to the college for the role these courses have played in helping my recovery.”
Chief Constable Martin Jelley added: “It is good to hear how Paul has benefited in his rehabilitation from distance learning with the college and I would like to offer my congratulations on this award.
“I am hugely committed to the health and wellbeing of my staff and am pleased that these courses are making a positive contribution to his colleagues and potentially those within other organisations.”