PCC talks mental health at first Governance Board
Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott used his inaugural Governance Board to discuss with the Chief Constable his pledge to revolutionise the way people with mental health issues interact with the police.
Governance Board meetings are the PCC’s principle means of holding Kent Police Chief Constable to account in public.
Mr Scott said: ‘I made mental health one of the priorities in my Six Point Plan because I feel too much police time is being spent deployed to incidents as a result of, or aggravated by, poor mental health. In my view, this also has an effect on the visibility of police officers in local communities.
‘There has been an increase in the number of people detained in Kent under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act which has led to officers having to wait for long periods in car parks, A&E departments or in custody and is a trend we cannot allow to continue.’
Kent Police’s Chief Constable Alan Pughsley told the meeting that around a third of officers’ time is now spent dealing with incidents where mental health is an issue.
Mr Pughsley said: ‘I’m pleased that the PCC has made mental health one of his top priorities, and welcome any support he can offer that will mean my officers and staff are giving the best possible service to vulnerable people and, just as importantly, the demand on them is reduced.’
One successful scheme trialled by Kent Police has seen counsellors from the mental health charity Mind working in its control room for two nights a week, offering support to callers with mental health issues and reducing demand on police officers and staff. With funding for the pilot due to run out in September, Mr Scott has now pledged to make sure the scheme continues.
He said: ‘It’s clear having Mind counsellors working alongside police staff in the control room is making a difference. Vulnerable callers are getting a better service by being able to speak to a trained mental health professional, and in some cases, patrols have been diverted from attending calls as a result of their intervention. That’s why I’m pleased to guarantee the funding to allow this scheme to continue, and look forward to considering proposals from the force on how the scheme can be extended in the future.’
The meeting, held at Kent Police headquarters in Maidstone on 2 August, also featured discussions about rural crime and how the force handles non-emergency 101 calls.
The next Governance Board meeting is scheduled for 7 November.