Government announces new measures to protect police officer's mental health as number of days lost to stress at Yorkshire force is revealed

The Government has announced a "new package" which it says will protect the wellbeing of police officers across Yorkshire.
The Government has announced a "new package" which it says will protect the wellbeing of police officers across Yorkshire.
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The Government has announced a "new package" which it says will protect the wellbeing of police officers across Yorkshire.

Whitehall has announced it will now work with police watchdog HMICFRS to put the wellbeing and mental health of staff and officers at the heart of front line policing, following a landmark review.

The announcement comes after it was revealed that more than 13, 400 days were lost to officers' poor mental health last year in the West Yorkshire Police force.

The Front Line Review has seen the Home Office engage directly with officers and staff from the 43 police forces across the country for more than a year.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our world-leading police keep us safe in the most challenging of circumstances – so it’s vital we do everything possible to support them in their roles.

“Over the past year we’ve been speaking to officers and listening to their views around how they can make the service they provide even better.

“As a result, we are taking action to reduce their workloads, ensure their wellbeing and give the front line a stronger voice in decision making.”

The Front Line Review will be launched later today by Policing Minister Nick Hurd and the Police Federation at their headquarters.

Minister for Policing and Fire, Nick Hurd, said: “We wanted to hear directly from the front line of policing and the messages were clear.

“The need for more people. The call to stop wasting police time. The desire for more of a say in the decisions that affect the front line. The need for more time and support for both training and wellbeing.

“We have listened and now we are taking action with our partners to make sure police officers, staff and volunteers have the support they need, wherever they serve. This is on top of the increased investment to recruit more officers.”

New guidance will also be issued empowering police to push back against responding to inappropriate requests for attendance, often health or welfare related, and where the police have neither the right skills or powers to respond.

This is designed to make a difference for vulnerable people, giving them the right support from the right agencies, while also freeing up time for the police to focus on tackling crime.

Other measures in today’s Front Line Review launch include:

Plans to bring the front line into the decision-making process on future policies and change

A commitment to look into shift patterns with a view to give officers more time for wellbeing, as well as personal and professional development

Bringing police chiefs and their staff together to find solutions to the front line’s frustrations over internal bureaucracies, including administration and inefficiencies, to free up time

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said the review "presents an opportunity to listen to the voices of police officers and staff" on the frontline, including the demands placed upon them and the daily impact on their health and wellbeing.

He said: "We welcome the commitment to enable police officers and staff to focus on their core roles rather than having to increasingly respond to inappropriate demands best met elsewhere.

"All public services have suffered as a result of spending cuts, but this report has rightly recognised the work that police officers need to do to keep their communities safe, and the work that needs to be met by other agencies and we all need the funding and sustained support to do that.

“There are mounting sustained pressures placed upon policing like never before, emerging from an absence of other more appropriate services and sustained government cuts.

“We also recognise and know that the police system is currently under intense strain and that further sustained resources are needed if we are to deliver against the proposals within the review."

Mr Burns-Williamson described policing as the "last line of defence" and said officers can be faced with "significant and traumatic situations" on a daily basis.

He said: "It is crucial that their wellbeing is protected so they can continue to lead fulfilling lives. That is one of the main reasons I supported the Protect the Protectors campaign and hold regular meetings with the Police Federation and staff associations and unions.

“And that is why at West Yorkshire Police and the OPCC we have programmes including a peer support network, line manager training in mental health, and an employee assistance programme where any WYP officer or staff member can call for support.

“It is our people: officers, staff, special constables, and volunteers, that ultimately keep our communities safe. It is only right that by regularly listening to the views of the front line that as Police and Crime Commissioners we do everything we can in conjunction with our Chief Constables and staff associations to ensure their health and wellbeing issues are addressed.”

Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents ranked officers, has also welcomed the review.

Mr Booth said: "The Front Line Review has listened to our officers who have raised significant concerns about the difficulties they deal with each day. This report is accurate and we now need those in power to make good on the recommendations.

"Especially welcomed is the New Guidance Empowering the police to push back in regards to inappropriate requests for police help. Also the National Inspections assessing how forces promote staff wellbeing.

"If this is embraced properly, we will have more officers, less police time wasting and less bureaucracy. That is better for the public."