David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, has responded to a report released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which claims that police forces are “being used as the service of default in responding to people with mental health problems”.
David said: “Due to largescale cuts to other public services, police in Cheshire are increasingly the first port of call in supporting those with mental health issues. Whilst police officers have received training to help them recognise the signs of poor mental health and understand how to offer support to those in need, they are not able to offer the expert advice and support that a mental health professional could provide.
“The constabulary works closely with partners within the NHS and other health care providers to provide a pathway referral for those individuals suffering from mental health problems who come in contact with the police, but due to austerity these services are also overstretched and under increasing pressure.
“In my role as chair of the Cheshire Criminal Justice Board, I’ve ensured leaders from local mental health services are represented on this board so they can be involved in discussions about how we can work together to provide support to those in the criminal justice system suffering from mental health issues.
“I also provide funding to support the constabulary’s triage system, which allows mental health professionals to accompany police officers on some calls when appropriate support is required.
“However, police forces cannot be expected to pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system, and I am gravely concerned about the impact this issue is having on the constabulary’s resources.
“Further government cuts could mean, in Cheshire, we are forced to lose 250 officers over the next two years. This, coupled with the fact police forces are bearing the brunt of cuts to other public services, will have a huge impact on our ability to respond to crime.
“The government needs to understand that their harsh cuts to all public services are having a knock-on effect on other public services and is, ultimately, causing a disservice to vulnerable people who need support.”