South Yorkshire Police has been praised for the way call handlers deal with people with mental health problems.
In a report on policing and mental health, which found that forces are increasingly becoming the ‘service of default’ in response to people with mental health problems, inspectors praised South Yorkshire Police.
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They found ‘some evidence of good supervision of staff’ who have the first contact with callers experiencing mental health problems.
The report pointed out that South Yorkshire Police’s call centre supervisors carry out regular performance meetings with police officers and staff.
Supervisors listen to a selection of calls that call handlers have answered to check that their tone, response and advice are consistent.
The report, carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, makes it clear that whilst the police service is doing ‘a good job in difficult circumstances’ there are concerns over whether forces should be involved in responding to mental health related issues ‘at the current level’.
The report calls for a ‘radical rethink’ and a longer-term solution to what has become a ‘national crisis’.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Zoë Billingham, said: “Police officers naturally want to respond and do their best to support vulnerable people when they ask for help. And we found that police officers respond to those with mental health problems with care and compassion.
“But we cannot expect the police to pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system. Over-stretched and all-too-often overwhelmed, police officers can’t always respond appropriately, and people in mental health crisis don’t always get the help they need.
“Fundamental change is needed urgently in the way those with mental health problems are supported by the state. The police should be the last resort, not the first port of call.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Police having to
deal with people who have mental health issues is a growing area of concern.
“I am pleased that the report does commend South Yorkshire Police call handlers for the
way they deal with people who have mental health issues. In turn they have been helping
police officers to understand better how they can assist these vulnerable people.
“I would very much support the force speaking directly to those with mental health issues to
better understand how they might respond even more effectively.”