Imminent change is crucial to address poor mental health in policing
There is “no easy overnight solution” to tackle poor mental health in policing but government must now help lead imminent change.
That is the warning from the chair of the Police Federation of England & Wales (PFEW) Steve White who was speaking to Sky News after a Detective Inspector from West Midlands warned that “sickness and mental health problems amongst colleagues are rife”.
Detective Inspector Warren Hines said: “We really are at a point now where we can't cope with what we're expected to deal with. We've got examples of police officers who have been conveyed to hospital from work because they've had a meltdown.
"I'm also aware of incidents where sergeants in our public protection units are allocating work on the basis of who is the least tearful that morning when they get to work.”
The PFEW’s welfare survey showed that stress levels across the police service are twice as high as levels seen across other working sectors, and our members feel that more needs to be done to tackle the stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing in the police service.
In June 2015 PFEW worked with the Police Firearms Officers Association (PFOA) to launch its Welfare Support Programme, available 24/7, 365 days a year with staff trained in Mental Health First Aid, suicide awareness, bereavement counselling and Neuro Linguistic Programming.
It also pledged to tackle mental illness in the service by signing up to the mental health charity Mind’s Blue Light Time to Change Pledge. The Pledge is part of the Mind’s wider Blue Light Programme launched in March 2015 to support the emergency services including the police.
The drop in officer numbers is one of several factors impacting on officer wellbeing, along with the continued below-inflation pay rises afforded to them.
The PFEW has repeatedly spoken of fears that the reduction in officer numbers will make policing more difficult and were accused of “crying wolf” by then Home Secretary Theresa May at its Annual Conference in 2015.
Mr White said: “Work by the Federation, alongside the College of Policing and welfare providers, will see plans submitted to the government for steps to be taken to deliver improved, co-ordinated welfare provision for officers.”
In the wake of the terror attacks in London and Manchester this year, the PFEW has warned that cuts to community policing are having a major impact, but Mr White believes it is important that the government looks to the future.
He said: “We predicted this five years ago. It’s important that we don’t dwell on what’s been, but instead focus on what can now be done."
Today, West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson, who is the national lead on finance for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has outlined the glaring reality and concerns around police funding to tackle the threats we face. He gives his thoughts on the steps needed to tackle the issues at hand, including stabilising the funding forces receive, support to spend the money more effectively and targeted increases in government spending.
Mr White added: “Ultimately there needs to be the debate around resourcing as numbers impact on demand. We need clearer agreements on future funding so that effective planning can take place.”
The PFEW is also assisting with a trial of the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) being made available to officers, with the scheme currently on offer to officers in Hampshire and Avon & Somerset.