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Surrey Police Federation

A Police Covenant would recognise the importance of officers mental health and wellbeing, says Federation

21 May 2020

The Police Covenant is an opportunity to recognise the importance of police officers’ wellbeing and mental health.

Mel Warnes, Chair of Surrey Police Federation, said it was a positive step to recognising that policing is a unique job.

She was speaking after the Police Federation of England and Wales revealed it has asked the Government to put officers’ mental and physical health at the forefront of the proposed new Police Covenant.

Mel said: “This is an opportunity to recognise that wellbeing and the mental health of police officers is important and that there is something enshrined in law to help those affected and their families. Families are often a forgotten bystander who are left to pick up the pieces.

“The Police Covenant can only be a positive step to reinforce the recognition that being a police officer is a unique job.

“They are the first and last resort of the emergency services, dealing with the most horrific incidents at times and always wanting to do their job the best they can which can have a detriment to themselves.”

The Police Federation of England and Wales as asked the Government to use the Covenant to guarantee better support and services for officers and their families – including for those who have retired from policing.

It also says the Government and Chief Constables must be held accountable for delivering changes to policing.

In its submission to the Home Office on the Police Covenant, the PFEW says that one in five officers suffer from undiagnosed PTSD. It is asking for specific mental health provisions for officers and for PTSD ring-fenced within the Police Covenant.

The PFEW submission says that mental health issues are twice as likely to force officers to take significant time off work than physical injuries, costing the service between £189.8 million and £229.9 million every year.

PFEW 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.”

The PFEW submission also calls for:

  • Free prescriptions for police officers in England (officers in Wales already have this)
  • Financial protection and support for officers’ families – particularly if an officer has been seriously injured or lost their life
  • A holistic approach to health and wellbeing, focusing on issues including finance, relationships, education and sleep
  • Fast-tracked healthcare to ensure officers are fit for duty at the earliest opportunity
  • National procurement for uniform and equipment, to end the current “postcode lottery”
  • Safe crewing – with recognition that single crewing can put officers in danger
  • The creation of a ‘Police Medal for Exemplary Service’, which links the honours system to the National Police Bravery Awards.