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Police now the ’24/7 default service’ for mental health

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE deals with around 200 mental health incidents every week, its Chief Constable has told members of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Mark Collins said there is continued demand on the force, which is seen as the ‘24/7 default service’ for people suffering with mental health, but welcomed collaboration with Hywel Dda University Health Board to tackle the problem and ensure people are properly cared for.

The Chief Constable is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Mental Health and Policing, and addressed the Panel after it asked for assurance that adequate priority is being given to the issue as part of the Force’s annual Police and Crime Plan.

Within the plan, the Commissioner has committed to improving understanding of mental health demands by working in partnership with other services and with people who have experience of mental ill health, and advocating a reasonable and proportionate response by front-line staff when dealing with people experiencing mental ill health.

He has also committed to ensuring that people suffering from mental ill health are treated in a health facility and not detained in custody.

Mr Collins gave the Panel an outline of the national picture which raises concerns about the level of police involvement in responding to mental health problems, saying that the police service is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

Police operation on Mount Estate, Milford haven on June 12, 2018 (Pics: Herald)

“The main issue is the continuing demand on the force,” he said. “We have 50-60 calls per day relating to mental health in Dyfed Powys. Our triage team deal with over 200 incidents a week.

Unfortunately, the police is a 24/7 default service.

“We’ve been able to reduce priority calls because we are carrying out welfare checks, but collaboration is the most important way forward.

“I welcome the latest announcements from Hywel Dda University Health Board regarding community care cafes in the Dyfed Powys area, with provision in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. For me, it’s that step beyond triage.”

The Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel has identified mental health as one of the key themes it will scrutinise during the year.

Independent Panel member Helen Thomas said she welcomed the focus that mental health is receiving.

She said: “I would like to thank the Commissioner and Chief Constable for this report. The facts you have given us are worrying. The demand on the police service cannot be under estimated. The focus needs to be on the police service and the huge demands on it.

“Not to be using cells is a huge advance but of course you have to have an alternative suitable accommodation and that’s a challenge. I look forward to hearing the improvements in the future.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s full report on Mental Health and Policing in Dyfed Powys, can be found as part of the agenda papers for the July 2019 meeting of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Find this, along with information about the Panel, its members, future meeting dates and more, at www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

More on police and mental health

by Rhys Williams

A REPORT was released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services last year, titled ‘Policing and Mental Health – Picking Up the Pieces’.

The Inspectorate revealed concerns that the police are working beyond their duty, and questioned whether the police should be involved in responding to mental health problems to the degree that they are.

Feedback from officers, partners, service users and some limited data indicates that in some cases the police service is stepping in to fill shortfalls in health services. This may include: transporting someone to hospital because an ambulance isn’t available; waiting with someone in hospital until a mental health place is found or checking on someone where there is concern for their safety.

Often, as a 24/7 service, police are the only professionals available to respond because the person is in crisis ‘out of hours’. The report’s detailed analysis shows that the peak time for calls to police for support with mental health-related incidents is between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday, towards the end of the working day.

The report also found that mental health crisis is often preventable and avoidable. It is far cheaper for health agencies to intervene early than pay for specialist crisis treatment after harm and distress has already been caused.

For example, in their force management statements (FMS), 13 forces cited the pressure that responding to repeat callers places on an already busy command and control system. If services were in place to treat people earlier, the cost savings would be significant.

The same point was made in the 2016 State of Policing report: “By the time depression or some other mental disorder has been allowed to advance to the point that someone is contemplating suicide, or engaging in very hazardous behaviour, many opportunities to intervene will have been missed by many organisations. When that intervention takes place on a motorway bridge or railway line, or when someone is holding a weapon in a state of high distress, the expense to all concerned is far higher than it should be. The principal sufferer is the person who is ill, especially when it is realised that his or her suffering could have been much less or even avoided altogether. Then there is the economic cost in terms of the expenditure of time and effort by the police and other public services, as well as the expense and trauma sustained by those adversely affected by the crisis at the time. The economic arguments for earlier intervention intensify the health and moral ones already in play.”

It was also suggested that the Crisis Care Concordat, a national agreement between local services and agencies involved in the support of people in mental health crisis, is a step in the right direction, but there still needs to be a rethink.

The report read: “All services and agencies have done considerable work to improve the response to those with mental health problems. A culmination of this collaboration is the Crisis Care Concordat, in which 22 bodies committed to improving the service and experience of those people with mental ill-health.

“However, people with mental health problems need expert support, and all too often this isn’t available when people need it. The fact that people are calling the police to access health care is untenable, and the evidence later in our report shows that the demand for police to respond to mental health-related calls is increasing. We believe there needs to be a radical rethink to guarantee a timely expert response from health services.”

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Simon’s Hart to Hart with Pembroke constituent

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SIMON HART has got into a heated doorstep discussion with a Pembroke pensioner whilst canvasing for next week’s general election.

Michael Hart, 70, who is no relation to Simon Hart, contacted The Herald at lunchtime today (5 December) to say that he had been in a heated discussion with the Tory incumbent, who was out door-knocking on his street.

The argument was sparked by the swastika saga – as exclusively reported in last week’s Herald – in which Simon Hart REFUSES to account for the appearance of offensive Nazi graffiti on one of his election placards, two years after it was taken down from public display.

Simon Hart photographed the placard in question in 2017 – at which point the only evidence of graffiti it bore was written text. But he posted a new photograph of the same placard to kickstart his re-election campaign last month, in which two swastikas are visible where none appeared before.

The MP is still refusing to give any public explanation, and has threatened legal action against those speculating over what he says is “demonstrably untrue.”
Since being reported by his favourite local weekly, Michael Hart tells us that he noticed how Simon Hart was still keeping quiet on the swastikas’ appearance – despite being approached by journalists reporting on the matter for the Independent, Daily Mirror, iNews and Western Mail titles.

Earlier this week WalesOnline reported that, when approached, Simon Hart failed to offer “an explanation as to how the swastika signs ended up on the election board, or who might be responsible”, but he told them: “Any suggestion that I had anything to do with this is malicious, false and defamatory and lawyers have been instructed”.

Michael Hart tells the Herald that he became aware Simon Hart was out campaigning on Kingsbridge Drive at lunchtime, when the candidate’s poster landed on his doormat.

The retiree says that the swastika issue led to the disagreement – in which words were exchanged and threats of legal action were inferred made towards him by the government minister.

Michael Hart, a retired teacher and mechanical engineer, said that he tackled Simon Hart to explain how the swastikas came about. He says his prodding produced what he calls a “tentative explanation” from the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire incumbent, which he finds “hard to believe”.

“I opened my door and went out to the drive, and politely said I did not want the poster. A few moments later, Simon Hart came up the road and onto my drive.

“I complained to him about two things – the Conservatives’ illegal proroguing of Parliament, and all that I’ve read about his publishing of the photo on his Facebook page of his defaced election board with the swastikas on.

“When I asked him about the signs, he got agitated, angry, and threatened me with legal action, and said he would pursue anybody who made out that he had anything to do with it”.

“On pushing him further, he told me how he thinks they got there. He says when his signs were in storage in a shed, that the shed was broken into, and a large number of placards including the swastika placard were ‘damaged or defaced’ for a second time!

“It really is quite some theory – and if it is true now, then it was true last week when the issue was first exposed. So why didn’t he mention this before now, when the Herald and other papers started asking him questions, or why didn’t he contact the police?

“Why was it when he put the poster on Facebook did he not then explain how the swastikas got there?

“I’m not sure why but he was recording our conversation on his phone. At the end of the visit no one from Mr Hart’s party would accept the poster back – so I threw it in the road and then it was picked up.”

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Jeremy Corbyn 100% confirmed to visit Pembrokeshire this weekend

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LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn will be visiting Pembrokeshire this weekend to shore up support for Labour candidates in the area.

Although the exact itinerary has not yet been confirmed, Labour HQ in Cardiff has confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that Mr Corbyn will definitely be in attendance.

Mr Corbyn will be keen to rally votes for Philippa Thompson, who is standing in the Preseli Pembrokeshire seat – the second most marginal in the UK.

At the 2017 election she lost to Stephen Crabb by just 314 votes.

An email sent out to Labour members states: “Jeremy Corbyn will be in Haverfordwest to talk about how we win a better society, and we hope you can join him.

“This election is a once in a generation chance for us. Together we can reverse a decade of austerity. Take power from the billionaires, the bad bosses and the big polluters and give it to workers, young people, communities and everyone the Tories have failed for so long.

“We’re coming together to make our voices heard in Haverfordwest this weekend. This is about getting together, being inspired, and making a difference in the final week.”

The exact location will be sent out to those who register to attend, the email ads. The indoor rally is expected to start at 5.30pm.

Corbyn’s supporters said they hope that their leader will also attend an outdoor rally taking place in Haverfordwest town centre, at a location to be confirmed, the same afternoon.

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Haverfordwest boy caught taking drugs by officers thirty miles away

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A TEENAGE boy was arrested in Haverfordwest last week, after he was caught smoking cannabis on CCTV cameras which are monitored in Carmarthen (on Nov 28).

As part of the ongoing effort to crack down on anti-social behaviour in the town centre, known as Operation Spitfire, Haverfordwest Inspector, Reuben Palin, was at police headquarters, where the cameras are monitored, when he spotted the boy on-screen.

He saw a group of teenagers known to police, and the camera operator was able to zoom in for a closer look at their activities. After a call to local officers, they quickly arrived at the scene. The group was searched and one of the youths was arrested for possessing the class B drug.

Insp. Palin said: “We’re doing all we can to address community concerns about anti-social behaviour in Haverfordwest, and this includes putting the town’s new CCTV system to best use.

“Seeing the capability of the cameras in live-time has shown that CCTV is not just useful when an incident has occurred, but can also help us monitor what’s happening in town, and will hopefully deter bad behaviour.

“Obviously this can’t replace good old fashioned foot patrols, and we have a plan that sees CCTV complementing a visible police presence.”

The teenage boy arrested on suspicion of possessing the small amount of cannabis admitted the offence, and will be dealt with by the Youth Offending Team to ensure he gets support for his drug use.

He continued: “We are also working with other agencies, in particular the council, which has recently opened a drop-in centre for young people at No 2 Old Bridge, with the aim of offering a wide range of activities and opportunities that reflect their interests.

“While we have a strategy to minimise anti-social behaviour in this area, we would like to remind parents that the actions of their children are not the responsibility of the police. We urge you to be aware of what your children are doing, and where they are spending their time.

“No one should have to put up with anti-social behaviour and I would encourage the community to contact Haverfordwest Police to report any issues or concerns.”

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