Lockdown 3: Policing and mental health services prepare for increased demand
As the UK embarks on a further national lockdown, policing and mental health services are preparing for increased mental health-related demand.
While some policing areas experienced initial dips in mental health demand at the beginning of the spring 2020 lockdown, some forces later reported mental health demand reaching unprecedented levels.
There are concerns that, as the pandemic continues, increased unemployment and court delays could impact on people’s mental ill health, resulting in further increases in police demand.
Demand on mental health services during the pandemic was one of the topics covered by a call for evidence launched in the autumn by Matthew Scott, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ Mental Health Lead. Today (January 6) the APCC has published initial findings from that inquiry.
Mr Scott said: “I thank those who responded for their valuable contributions. I was particularly inspired by the agility and care taken by agencies to protect the vulnerable.
“Despite the devastating impact Covid-19 has had, if one positive can be taken from it, it is the significant opportunity to develop partnership working.”
The summary report details how, at the beginning of the pandemic, several Police and Crime Commissioners and police forces experienced reductions in mental health demand, prompting concerns that vulnerable people were not seeking the help they require. Some policing areas also reported how call handlers had received calls from the public reporting anxiety, with people seeking police support because their regular sources of community mental health support were limited due to needing to comply with social distancing measures.
As lockdown conditions eased, some forces reported mental health demand reaching unprecedented levels, describing how demand for medical support spilled over geographical borders to facilities where there was greater capacity.
PCCs responded to the crisis by delivering emergency funding to charities who support vulnerable people, including those with poor mental health. Additionally, service providers of PCC commissioned victims’ services reported that a number of victims had a preference to wait until restrictions were lifted in order to access specialist services in person rather than receive support virtually.
Court delays were also identified as drivers of mental health issues among some victims.
Phase One of the PCC’s inquiry is now complete. A second phase will delve deeper into the issues identified in this initial research, culminating in a final report with recommendations for the sector.
Mr Scott concluded: “It is my hope that the strong commitment and partnership work identified by this inquiry, particularly between policing and the voluntary sector to ensure those experiencing mental health issues can get the right care, from the right person at the right time, will help recognise the significant mental health demands policing faces and provide a platform to improve mental health support across England and Wales.”