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Mental wellbeing taken seriously by Government

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Vice-Chair Ché Donald reports back on the roundtable meeting hosted by Policing Minister Nick Hurd on officer mental health and wellbeing.

The meeting (on Tuesday 16 January) was well attended, with excellent representation by key stakeholders in the police wellbeing arena, including; Police Treatment Centres (PTCs), CC Andy Rhodes, Mind, PCC Ron Hogg and Sir Tom Winsor to name a few. We were also graced by the presence of Chief Superintendent John Sutherland, who has personally made a significant impact in raising awareness of the issues around mental health in policing.

So firstly, I will admit that I did enter into this meeting with a bias. Having attended so many similar type meetings in the past, there has always seemed to be much talk and not much action.

Secondly, to be frank, this government hasn’t exactly been a friend to policing, the cuts and inadequate funding being evidence of this. Preconceived notions aside, I have to admit that not only did the Police Minister recognise the severity of the problems of officer wellbeing within the police service, he also showed a strong willingness to move forward with an approach to address this, which must result in a standardised whole system approach in addressing this growing issue.
There was certainly a desire from all present to work towards this, however with particular emphasis on the fact that this problem is growing and therefore needs to be acted on sooner rather than later.

I was particularly vocal in drawing attention to the fact that wellbeing and welfare is affected by demand and capacity issues, as highlighted by our survey.

Therefore if sensible and mature conversations are not taken around reducing demand or improving capacity to deal with demand, wellbeing will not improve. Significant investments can be made in producing a bespoke wellbeing service, however if the severe imbalance between demand and capacity is not addressed, all you will have is a steady, consistently growing stream of officers requiring access to this welfare service. In short, tackling demand and capacity is one of the most immediate and direct methods to making a difference in preventing poor mental health and wellbeing.

This was a point that resonated with a number of attendees around the table, as was evident by their nodding in agreement.

So where do we go from here?

Well a further meeting is to be set, where proposals, time frames and costs will no doubt form part of the conversations. What was promising for me, was recognition by the Minister and representatives from the Home Office of the problem surrounding police wellbeing and mental health along with the extent of it. Obviously, the first battle in addressing any problem is recognising you have one.

Read our pre-meeting news item: Roundtable event 'long overdue'

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