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7 April 2020
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, I can safely say this has been one of the most challenging periods for both the Federation and for the police service – never have I witnessed anything like this.
This is an unprecedented time for all as we battle this invisible threat – with police officers doing an extraordinary job, making decisions which they never thought they would and adjusting to new powers only introduced a few days ago.
For some it may be easy to forget that behind the uniform they are mums, dads, sons and daughters who are facing the same issues as people within their communities; whether that being caring for vulnerable relatives or sadly being off ill themselves.
A combination of juggling family life and paying the bills whilst working long, often 12-hour shifts, is a perfect storm for officers to feel overwhelmed, mentally and physically torn.
It is paramount that during this time we make both the home lives and working lives of our colleagues more manageable. This is why we been working relentlessly for our members doing their utmost around the clock to protect the public and to assist the NHS in this time of crisis.
One of the ways we have been helping is signposting them to financial help and tips from some of our policing partners on how to save and how to manage paying rent and mortgages as officers face having to live on less money, especially if them or a family member has to rely on statutory sick pay or cannot work at all.
Speak to someone! All too often, when we face financial worries, we are too afraid to talk to someone. Instead, we suffer in silence. Financial worries often lead to sleepless nights and strained relationships which is no good for our mental health or physical health. I have been there myself before and I know it is really tough, but this needs to change, and we will continue to encourage our members.
As more people tragically pass away from this virus, officers are also having to respond to more deaths. We are concerned about the long-lasting impact this will have on their mental wellbeing over the coming months as they are repeatedly exposed to these traumatic scenes.
The other week an officer responded to 15 coronavirus-related deaths in just 24 hours – and he’s certainly not the only one to be dealing with such a high volume of incidents, and this volume will undoubtedly rise.
Even more colleagues in need can now get help through our expanded Welfare Support Programme with access to a 24/7 support line staffed by trained professionals and a full-time welfare support officer who will work alongside Federation representatives to support officers and their immediate families. I am pleased to say this officer was referred to the programme and is now receiving the counselling they need.
The lack of PPE is on everyone’s lips right now, and rightly so. But the concerns of our officers have not fallen on deaf ears and the Federation has been working tirelessly over the past couple of weeks alongside chiefs to ensure they are given the right protective equipment on the frontline.
It has been frustrating at times due to a national shortage and more needs to be done - but it is promising to see face masks, hand gels and gloves starting to be delivered to police stations. Our local reps have been stepping up and are also delivering PPE to the frontline by either making deliveries to stations or handing them out to officers on the frontline from one of their welfare vans.
But we are far from the finishing line and we are continuing to work with health care professionals and forces so we can do even more to look after our colleagues during this incredibly challenging time.
We’re all in this together and with support from one another I know we can come out of the other end stronger.