No police force is immune from welfare results
09 February 2018
Links between demand, capacity and officer welfare feature in a new report from the Police Federation of England and Wales. The report and its findings will be discussed at the first in a series of workshops involving key decision makers in policing as well as a series of one-to-ones which will be held with key stakeholders.
Ché Donald, Vice-Chairman Police Federation of England and Wales, explained the work has been part of a bigger research project led by PFEW and the workshops will explore the issues which “no force is immune from.”
“We began our research back in 2015, starting with focus groups with officers about reduced officer numbers,” explained Mr Donald. “Officers raised concerns over an imbalance between demand and capacity, as well as how this was impacting on their welfare and the level of service that they were able to deliver to the public.
“As a result a large-scale survey on demand, capacity and welfare was undertaken in 2016 to explore the relationships between officers’ experience of these sorts of demand and capacity pressures, and aspects of their overall welfare.
“After careful analysis, it is clear there are several links between demand and capacity, and the health and wellbeing of our officers. Within the current context of continuing austerity and the steady rise of recorded crime, it’s clear that the current situation is untenable and no force is immune from the results.
“Although there is a lot of excellent work being done to address the symptoms of poor officer welfare, there is little being done to address their causes; and unless we start focusing on reducing demand or improving capacity, officer wellbeing will not improve.”
The original research produced nine reports in which officers felt that their workloads were too high and that they were struggling to meet demand. In addition, many officers reported that they were suffering from fatigue, high levels of stress, and poor overall mental wellbeing. The survey’s aim was not just to quantify separate issues, but to also explore the relationships between them. To that end, the new report published today looked at the inferential statistics, expressed as odds ratios. For example, the odds that an officer experiencing frequent unrealistic time pressures is also experiencing lower morale, and / or poorer wellbeing.
Mr Donald continued: “The aim of the workshops is to gather ideas, develop practical solutions, and agree a set of shared recommendations with a broad range of stakeholders to try to address the issues raised by our research. We’ll be concentrating on both the causes and effects of a demand and capacity imbalance; paying particular attention to discussions around measuring and balancing demand and capacity, as well as increasing the opportunities for welfare training and support.
“We recognise that we cannot effectively enact change alone and need on-going support from key stakeholders and partner agencies to meet these challenges going forward.”
The latest findings indicate that demand and capacity pressures have serious implications for the health and welfare of officers, and are contributing to the creation of a workforce that can be characterised as ‘tired, tense, and targeted.’
More specifically, officers who experienced any of the following 11 demand and capacity pressures were statistically more likely to experience poor wellbeing in one or more welfare aspects measured by the survey:
• Unpaid overtime;
• Insufficient officers to do the job properly;
• Inability to meet conflicting demands on time at work;
• High overall workload;
• Insufficient time to do a job to a standard to be proud of;
• Frequent single crewing;
• Frequent neglect of tasks owing to having too much to do;
• Frequent unrealistic time pressures;
• Frequent unachievable deadlines;
• Frequent refusal of annual leave requests;
• Frequent pressure to work long hours.
The survey results also indicated that the psychological well-being of officers was found to be considerably poorer than that of the general public, with high levels of job-related stress and the vast majority of officers reporting stress, anxiety or other difficulties with their mental health and well-being. More worrying, was that 92% of respondents who were experiencing these sorts of difficulties said that these feelings had been caused by, or made worse by, work. The results also indicated that mental health and well-being support services provided by the police service were often inadequate, hard to access, or severely cut.