Police well-being is the focus of a new goal launched by the Home Office in conjunction with partners in policing and mental health. Partners who developed the goal pledge to work together to boost the welfare support available to police officers and staff in England and Wales over the next three years.
The Home Secretary Sajid Javid was clear in his speech to the Police Federation in May that he wants to “totally transform the welfare provision” for police. The new goal represents the result of six months of engagement by Nick Hurd (Minister for Policing and the Fire Service) with policing partners and health experts, and sets out a shared vision for ensuring police officers and staff have the support they need to flourish.
The minister has joined major policing groups – including the Police Federation of England and Wales, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing – in drawing up the new goal.
The goal has also received the backing of Mind, the mental health charity which provides support to over half a million people in England and Wales.
Nick Hurd said: “We have heard the message that police welfare support must improve. Officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public, so it’s vital the Government and chief officers have their backs. This goal represents a real step towards police leaders ensuring every member of their force feels valued and supported, but it will not solve the issue by itself – action must follow.”
Culture focused on early interventions
By signing up to the goal, police leaders pledge to create a culture in forces that focuses on early intervention to help officers and staff. The goal also demands that forces provide key forms of assistance – including occupational health and effective line management – and signposts to other providers, including police charities, which can support officers or staff facing specific challenges.
The goal grew out of a round table discussion chaired by Hurd back in January, and which was attended by police leaders and health experts. Hurd has now chaired a second round table on the issue.
The goal complements existing funding from the Government to improve the tools and resources available to police officers and staff.
The former Home Secretary Amber Rudd awarded £7.5 million to the College of Policing in July 2017 over three years to pilot and, if successful, fund a dedicated national welfare service. The funding covers a mapping project that will provide a clearer picture of the welfare needs of police forces across England and Wales.
The Government has also awarded £7 million to Mind to fund its Blue Light Well-Being Programme – which provides mental health support to members of the Emergency Services – and £1.5 million to the Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate. The latter treats police officers suffering from illness or injury.
‘More needs to be done sooner’ for police welfare
Police Federation vice-chair Ché Donald said: “This is a positive step forward towards improving the welfare support available to officers up and down the country. The timescales for officers to see and feel this support on the ground will be key to convincing them that the chiefs mean action.”
According to Donald, resilience in the police service is at an all-time low and, with unprecedented cuts and officers being asked to do more with fewer resources, he feels it’s no surprise that this is having an overwhelming negative impact on their health and well-being.
“Findings from our demand, capacity and welfare survey revealed that a concerning 80% of officers said they suffered from stress, low mood and anxiety. 92% of them said their psychological difficulties had been caused or made worse by work. Figures collated from Freedom of Information results released this month also show that there has been a considerable rise in the number of officers off sick with mental health concerns over the last six years.”
Impact on mental health
Donald went on to assert that police officers are exposed to horrific things on a daily basis which undoubtedly have a significant impact on their mental health and well-being. “They are things that others wouldn’t even experience in a lifetime, but because ‘it’s their job’ it seems there’s an expectation for them to brush it off. Police officers are not immune and early intervention and support is crucial in ensuring their long-term welfare and the overall sustainability of our police service.”
In addition, Donald observed: “I’m positive that we are making progress. We have a shared vision in place for the future of police welfare, but more needs to be done sooner to ensure that all forces have appropriate and consistent welfare provisions in place to look after the people whom we rely upon to keep us safe. Chiefs should be investing in their current welfare provisions regardless. Cost is no excuse. If you think welfare provision is expensive, it pales in comparison to the cost of sickness.”