South Wales Police is taking action to help prevent people with mental health illnesses ending up in custody

SouthWales police are linking up with partners, the aim of the work is to make surethat people with mental health complaints don’t end up in cells beinglooked after by police officers, but in more appropriate places where theirneeds can be assessed and they can be cared for by medically trainedprofessionals.

An actionplan is now being published which highlights some of the work being progressedin this area. This includes:

  • Establishing a Crisis Sanctuary in Cardiff, an idea supported in principle by both Gofal and Hafal and by the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
  • Developing a tri-service call centre at Police HQ in Bridgend
  • Enabling the police, fire and health services to support each other to make appropriate referrals.
  • Working with Cardiff University to develop a mental health app to help frontline police officers when they are dealing with these issues.

Policeand Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said:
“A lot ofimportant work is currently going on with a number of partners to help policeofficers manage the plight of people who have mental health problems.

“The keyis to focus on people’s needs, supporting them in more appropriate ways andultimately taking them out of the criminal justice system when it is notnecessary.

“We aredefinitely moving in the right direction but the reality is that far too manypeople with mental health issues are still ending up in police cells. Custodystaff often spend many hours seeking the right referral for somebody who is intheir care and the lack of a suitable place of safety – particularly at nightand at the weekend – is a big issue.

“Whilethere is still some way to go there has been very constructive engagement,particularly on the part of South Wales Police, the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust,as well as Gofal and Hafal which is why we are publishing this action plan andworking on progressing the detail.”

AssistantChief Constable Jon Stratford added:
“Wewelcome the work led by the Commissioner and his Deputy which is furtherprogress towards driving down, and ultimately eradicating, the use of policecells as a place of safety for persons detained under the Mental Health Act.

“Policecells should not be used to house persons who are unwell and not suspected tohave committed any offences. We are working closely with Welsh Government,Local Authorities, Local Health Boards and third sector organisations toprevent the need for this practice and improve the care we jointly provide topeople in mental health crisis.”