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Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Mental health must be at heart of Police Covenant

21 May 2020

Safeguarding officers’ mental and physical health and wellbeing in a Police Covenant enshrined in law is at the heart of the Police Federation of England Wales’ (PFEW) submission to the Government consultation.

With a strong focus on mental health, not just physical, the PFEW consultation response evidences the need for better support and services for officers – including those who have retired – and their families, as well as suggesting how they can receive more recognition for the unique job they do.

Officers are at high risk of experiencing psychological harm as well as physical attacks. Our latest findings revealed 30% had sought help for mental health and wellbeing difficulties associated with, or due to, a potentially traumatic incident that they experienced in the line of duty.

What is even more shocking is that one in five officers suffer from undiagnosed PTSD; therefore, the Federation has pressed the need for specific mental health provisions for officers and for it to be a core, ring-fenced element of the Police Covenant.

Poor mental health and wellbeing is also twice as likely to force officers to take significant time off work than physical injuries.

It has been estimated mental health is costing the service between £189.8 million and £229.9 million annually – another reason why proactive protection should be prioritised, as prevention is always better than cure.

Having consulted with PFEW Wellbeing leads from across the 43 forces in England and Wales, the consultation response also calls on Government to consider including the following in the Police Covenant:

  • We want them to have access to appropriate financial protection, support, and advice as and when needed; especially when there has been serious injury or loss of life
  • Health and wellbeing. This needs to be considered holistically, focussing on multiple aspects from finance and relationships, to education and sleep and much more
  • Fast-tracked healthcare to ensure officers are fit for duty at the earliest opportunity
  • A national procurement process for uniform and equipment, with input by expert external agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive. It cannot and must not be a postcode lottery for officer safety when it comes to access to the best equipment and uniform for all
  • Safe-crewing practices
  • We believe there is a lack of formal and state recognition, particularly in relation to police officer bravery. We feel it is a good idea to link our Bravery Awards to the honours process and that a ‘Police Medal for Exemplary Service’ should be created

PFEW National Chair John Apter said: “The Government should do more to protect police officers both physically and mentally. The challenges, dangers and threats officers face are often unpredictable, but their unique and selfless support means they adapt and deal with the unknown. The last few difficult weeks proves just this.

“Our colleagues on the frontline have been putting themselves and their families in harm’s way to help save lives and ease the burden on the NHS; a testament to their dedication. It’s only right that officers, police staff, retired colleagues and their families are given the support and recognition they deserve in return.

“But this must be more than just a poster on the wall; the Covenant must be meaningful and enshrined in law so the Government and chiefs can be held accountable for delivering change. We will continue to seek the views of members to ensure this makes a positive tangible difference to the welfare and wellbeing support available for everyone in the police service and their loved ones who they couldn’t do their incredible jobs without."

ASC Chair, Insp. Andy Roebuck stated, “This is an important measure that will look to support officers and their families. Such a covenant will need to be fit for our members requirements and for those of their families. The support of those officers that need such assistance is paramount, so there will have to be an openness to understand our needs going forward. We encourage the Home Office to fully engage and listen to our specific needs. We will endeavour to ensure that the needs of Avon and Somerset Police Officers is captured.”