The College of Policing has now completed the production of new guidelines on mental health for the police service in England and Wales and this blog is a part of the College’s efforts to communicate this publication to the public as a whole, as well as the police service and partner organisations. These new guidelines are known as Authorised Professional Practice (APP) and they are supplemented by the first national training products on mental health for policing. These are the College’s main contribution to the 2014 Crisis Care Concordat which aims to improve the country’s response to vulnerable people right across the mental health and criminal justice systems.
APP and training materials have been available to police forces for several months and work has begun to prepare for the impact they should have because mental health issues effect every area of policing and are believed to be connected to a third of all demand: this is core police business and all officers, at all ranks, need to understand how it affects their role and responsibilities. It was being publically launched to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2016 – on the theme of psychological first aid. The College of Policing held several events around the country in July 2016 to introduce forces to these materials and to help them understand the preparatory work that they will need to do, to prepare for the implications they have.
Mental health issues inherently demand a partnership approach: the police service cannot do this alone; and forces should use the publication of APP and national training standards to influence and improve their local arrangements. We know that challenges across the country do vary, with different challenges in urban versus rural areas; we know that mental health funding and commissioning varies across the country. That is what forces must address and what operational police officers must assist in identifying and handling.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POLICE
APP represents the standards which must be met in all areas of the country and in any analysis of local arrangements, forces and officers must bear in mind that any difference between the two means something needs to change in local arrangements – this is what local Crisis Care Condordat actions plans should have already identified and every area has made a commitment to address those things. APP is based on statutory requirements, relevant Codes of Practice to those instruments and case law – as well as on lessons that need to be learned from IPCC inquiries, Coroner’s inquests and from medical and healthcare guidelines.
The aim here is to ensure that vulnerable people access crisis care without being unnecessarily criminalised by the police and that vulnerable victims and suspects are identified as early as possible and supported within the criminal justice system, where appropriate. For example we know that people with mental health problems are three times as likely to be victims of crime as people without; we also know that people with mental health problems are heavily represented within the criminal justice system.
It will be important to the success of this programme that Chief Constables ensure sufficient resources are allocated to understanding what this programme means for their organisation and their local partnerships. There local Crisis Care Concordat forum in each area is the arena in which any particular issues can be raised which are crucial to the success of the programme. It is also important that individual police officers take the time to read the guidance: they will often be far better placed to understand any particular challenges and difficulties in making the APP happen in the real world.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PUBLIC AND PARNTERS
The public can expect to see much closer cooperation between their police service and the relevant partners in the NHS and other public bodies: this should be reflected in better access to crisis care and a greater range of options to resolve situations where the police become involved. Partner organisations from ambulance services, mental health trusts and acute care providers should expect to see their police services reviewing their overall approach as they move towards ensuring the way in which they deliver their service complies with APP. Ultimately, this is the standard against which the Independent Police Complaints Commission will hold police officers and forces to account.
The College doesn’t under-estimate the difficulties in some areas of ensuring that policing / mental health partnerships work in a way that reflects the statutory framework, the Codes of Practice and so on. However, we know that many of the most high-profile and difficult incidents which have often arise against a background of the police service being unable to operate in the way they have been expected. It is vital that the national partnership working envisaged by the Concordat ensures that operational officers have every chance to do the right thing.
APP on all police topics is available publicly on the College of policing website – www.app.college.police.uk
This is not the end: merely the end of the beginning – we already know that there will be further changes to come and that many challenges remain: In October 2016 a new Code of Practice for Wales was introduced; by Spring 2017 the Policing and Crime Bill will have received Royal Assent and that will amend the Mental Health Act 1983. We also know that other organisations are continuing their own work to delivery on their obligations under the Concordat and that forces still face important decisions about street triage and / or Liaison and Diversion schemes in their areas. For that reason, the College will continue to support nationally by engaging with other national bodies and supporting police services and their partnerships.
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