Protecting young people’s dignity and comfort is key in East Cambs Police’s new ‘Sue’s Essentials’ scheme

Crime Reduction Officer, Sue Loaker and DCI Donna Wass in the Ely branch of Waitrose, which is suppo

Crime Reduction Officer, Sue Loaker and DCI Donna Wass in the Ely branch of Waitrose, which is supporting the 'Sue's Essentials' initiative. - Credit: Archant

The case of a 12-year-old girl caught shoplifting in Ely has prompted the launch later this month of a new scheme aimed at helping vulnerable young people.

The ‘Sue’s Essentials’ scheme is the brainchild of Sue Loaker, crime reduction and community safety officer at Ely police station, and will provide items such as deodorants and underwear to young people in need.

She explained: “A 12-year-old girl was caught shoplifting, she had stolen toiletries and underwear, which it turned out she was not being provided with at home.

“I did a bit of research and found there is a need among some pupils at local secondary schools and decided to launch the scheme, which has been given the backing of the safer community partnership.”

The aim is to provide essentials such as deodorants, sanitary products, soap as well as underwear, both boys and girls, to secondary aged young people via a host of outlets including the foodbank, schools, GP surgeries and Centre E in Barton Road.

Mrs Loaker said: “The scheme will be launched later this month and we aim to make it as discreet as possible to protect young people’s dignity. They can simply go along to the foodbank and ask for these items or they can be referred.

“I have done my research and know there is a real need for this service. It will also help cut crime because at the moment young people feel they have no alternative but to shoplift these essential items.”

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Sue is hoping that shoppers at Waitrose in Ely will give their support as the scheme vies for ‘green tokens’ alongside two other charities in the store’s monthly charity funding vote.

The public can also donate items at collection bins, which will be coming soon to places including the police station and shops around the city.

Chief Inspector Donna Wass who went along to Waitrose on Friday with Mrs Loaker to promote ‘Sue’s Essentials’, said: “We know that when times are hard financially, poverty can push people towards criminal behaviours in extreme cases.

“We want to do everything that we can to avoid criminalising people - particularly young people - in hardship, and this initiative from Sue is part of a compassionate response to that.”