1. The Commissioner said that Kent Police and Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) had agreed a new mental health strategy outlining ways in which organisations can work together to support those in crisis.
2. In relation to governance, the Commissioner said this would be underpinned by a Mental Health and Policing Board that the Assistant Chief Constable and the KMPT Chief Executive had invited him to lead, at which he will hold both to account. Kent MPs had also invited the Commissioner to host a round table event on mental health. This group included the KMPT Chief Executive and representatives of most Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across the county and focussed on issues specific to policing, commissioning of future services and working together following the introduction of the Policing and Crime Act that prevents children from being held in police cells under S136 and adults only in extreme circumstances. The Commissioner explained that he was awaiting clarification on the definition of extreme circumstances.
3. The Commissioner was pleased to report that the street triage service was returning in limited form in Medway and Thanet from April, funded by the CCGs. The service will comprise of a mental health practitioner and police officer attending any incident where a person may have mental health issues and run Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights in Medway and Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Thanet. The Commissioner added that both services would be for all ages
4. The Commissioner explained that both he and his predecessor had provided funding to reduce long waiting times for counselling sessions for child victims of sexual assault. Following engagement with CCGs, many had now agreed to take this on from the new financial year, so Commissioner funding would no longer ‘prop up’ a NHS statutory service.
5. The Commissioner’s Mental Health and Policing Fund had opened, with £250k funding available for community groups and local authorities to bid into for new projects or the expansion of current services to help reduce demand on policing due to mental health. The Commissioner said that some money had already been allocated to those projects agreed last year, such as the continued presence of MIND counsellors in the Force Control Room, funding for two crisis cafes and the Medway safe haven bus. The Commissioner asked Panel Members to promote his fund where appropriate.
6. The Commissioner reaffirmed his commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of officers and staff, particularly in light of the recent Westminster attack and thanked those people who had taken time to write in or thank officers and staff for the job they do. He also referred to the longer term impact on the relatives, friends and colleagues of those involved in the Westminster attack, and those who witnessed it.
7. A Member thanked the Commissioner for his update, and asked if he was confident that alternative accommodation was available for young people in mental health crisis who could no longer be held in police cells? The Commissioner confirmed that the numbers were very low and that he was confident alternative accommodation would be found.
8. The Commissioner said he had undertaken training on the new legislation; this had given him confidence that officers were being equipped with the necessary training.
9. The Commissioner said there would be a new mental health team under the new policing model; there would be dedicated officers in addition to the street triage service.
10.In response to a question the Commissioner clarified that Kent Police and KMPT had put together a strategy which he had been consulted on and would be launched in June. As part of the governance arrangements, the Commissioner would be chairing a Mental Health and Policing Board at which he would be asking questions and holding them to account.
11.Referring to a question about information sharing the Commissioner confirmed that Kent Police did share information with the local authorities and the relationship was quite good, but sharing information with the NHS had been problematic, and this was something that needs work. Improving data sharing and data collection was one of the key ambitions of the new strategy that Kent Police and KMPT had put together.
12.The Chairman asked who would take on responsibility for young people who could not be looked after by the police. The Commissioner said it was necessary for the NHS to commission the right services. The Commissioner had provided funding for counselling for child victims of sexual assault. There was a need for a parity of esteem between mental health and physical health.
13.A Member asked whether the Commissioner found, from a policing perspective a difference between responses from CCG’s across Kent. The Commissioner confirmed that he found the response variable. There were concerns about whether the right services are being commissioned.
RESOLVED that the Panel thank the Commissioner for his verbal update.