BASW responds to Met police decision to attend fewer mental health calls
The decision is part of the National Partnership Agreement on Policing and Mental Health: Right Care, Right Person (RCRP).
While we acknowledge the challenges faced by the police due to long term underfunding and increased demand, we are extremely worried about the potential risks this decision poses.
The RCRP's criteria for police response raises significant alarm. By narrowing the situations in which the police can intervene, there's a real danger that vulnerable individuals, their support networks, social workers, and other professionals might face heightened risks to their safety. BASW fears that this will have a disproportionate impact and unintended consequences for certain people in crisis, who may fall through the gaps, in particular those who are autistic and or have a learning disability, younger people with mental health needs and those with a dementia.
We’re concerned there appears to have been little consultation with organisations representing social care or with the VCSE sector, in the development of the RCRP Partnership Agreement, despite them being key to the delivery of these changes. Social workers, who play a crucial role in mental health support, are not even recognised as emergency workers within the Emergency Workers Act 2018, leaving them in a precarious position. The LGA note concerns that the RCRP model could be rolled out too quickly, with inadequate local engagement and partnerships working, meaning other agencies are unable to pick up demand. Right Care, Right Person: The National Partnership Agreement on Policing and Mental Health | Local Government Association
Furthermore, the uncertainty surrounding local arrangements and the shortage of qualified professionals like Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) raise serious questions about the feasibility of this change. BASW believes that thorough consultation with all stakeholders, including social care and the voluntary sector, is imperative. There is an urgent need for in-depth analysis at the local level to identify gaps in existing services caused by chronic underfunding and plans put in place to manage the potential increase in referrals to social care.
Employers must ensure the safety of social workers and other professionals. It is essential that the responsibility for personal safety does not solely rest with the individual within these new working arrangements. We urge for a reconsideration of this decision and a collaborative approach involving all concerned parties to protect the well-being of both professionals and the individuals they serve. We hope that the impact of implementation will be closely monitored to ensure unintended consequences and increased risk are avoided.
Further details of social work views on this issue can be found here.