As reported in The Guardian, the home secretary, Theresa May, has told the Police Federation conference that a new policing and sentencing bill will include legislation to ban the use of police cells as ‘places of safety’ for children who are in mental health crisis.
The latest figures show that there were at least 23,300 people taken to a place of safety under the Mental Health Act in 2013/14. Of these, 6,000 were taken to to a police station and more than 200 were children.
The Government has also pledged up to £15m of funding to provide alternatives to police cells for those detained under the Mental Health Act, known as ‘health-based places of safety’.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“We welcome the Government’s commitments around mental health and policing. A police cell is not an appropriate or therapeutic place for people in mental health crisis. No matter who you are or where you live, you should have access to an appropriate ‘place of safety’, such as a specialist suite in a hospital or community setting. We look forward to seeing the draft legislation and to working with the Home Office to close the legal loophole that allows people in crisis to end up in a cell in anything other than genuinely exceptional circumstances."
“It is not clear whether the £15m pledged to make this happen is new money or will come out of existing NHS budgets, but we are nevertheless pleased to see ending the use of police cells for people in crisis made a priority. Across England, every police force has signed up to the Crisis Care Concordat and they working with local NHS, local authorities and other services to deliver joint action plans to ensure a safe and swift service for people in mental health crisis. Every local action plan includes a commitment to reduce the use of police cells and so it is more important than ever that the funding pledged reaches the frontline. We will be watching closely to make sure that this happens."
“Mental health is core police business, as police will always be a possible first point of contact for people in crisis. They have a key role to play but need the right support from the NHS and, importantly, officers need the right training and support to understand the mental health needs of the communities they serve.”