Political, police and health service leaders will come together later this week for a summit on how to address mental health issues and offending.
The event has been called by Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd in response to the increasing demand on policing services in dealing with people with mental health problems.
An opportunity for agencies to share information on how they work with people suffering mental health problems, the meeting will help set the foundations for a more coordinated Greater Manchester-wide approach to the issue to reduce offending and protect vulnerable people.
Representatives from local authorities, NHS, probation, the fire service, Greater Manchester Police and voluntary groups will attend the meeting on Friday 18 October, which is being hosted by New Economy*.
Tony said: “This issue is putting an ever-increasing burden on local policing services. Greater Manchester Police is more and more becoming the agency of last resort, with officers being called out to detain people suffering from mental health problems. But the reality is, police officers are not health workers and people with mental health problems need a hospital bed, not a police cell. Not only does this take up valuable police time, which would be better spent policing our streets, but it also adds to the distress of that vulnerable person.
The concerns in Greater Manchester echo those voiced by mental health professionals who say the country’s mental health services are in crisis and the current levels of access to treatment unacceptable.
“It’s clear that the system is broken and needs to be fixed,” adds Tony. “This meeting is an opportunity to not only get the dialogue flowing between criminal justice and health sector agencies and identify what’s being done right and what’s being done wrong, but – importantly – come up with a practical framework of how we will work together in Greater Manchester and actually put this into practice.”
Figures from New Economy show that many offenders are known to have mental health and/or drug and alcohol problems. The meeting will look at how to make sure the right treatment and support is in place to help people suffering a mental health crisis and prevent them from entering the criminal justice system.
“There are some good examples of mental health projects across Greater Manchester, for example the recently launched Sanctuary in Manchester which offers an over-night crisis service,” adds Tony. “This is something I want to build on – providing help, support, and places of safety for vulnerable people, and working with them early on to tackle their problems and stop them becoming criminalised. At the end of the day, these are vulnerable members of our community who should be treated as patients, not criminals.”
Baron Frankal, director of economic strategy at New Economy, said: “Given the ongoing downward trajectory of public sector spending, the days when different services can sit in silos are long gone. The Police and Crime Commissioner’s foray into areas like mental health is to be welcomed, as it is only through still-separate blue light services like police and health addressing these issues together, that a cost-effective and indeed real solution can be found. Much of what New Economy consistently does is challenge in areas like this, on public sector reform as much as economic growth.
“The complications around delivering effective policing services as regards those with mental health issues is particularly tricky to address. However, our evidence base suggests that even small improvements, including the development of a more joined-up approach, would have a real impact on strained resources and would provide better outcomes for residents, and that’s what we hope the result of this work will be.”
*New Economy is a think-tank for promoting growth and prosperity in Greater Manchester.