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Suffolk Police renew promises on mental health initiative

A police representative has pledged adequate support following the launch of a mental health initiative.

David Skevington, Suffolk Constabulary chief of staff, joined members of the Suffolk County Council’s health and wellbeing board this morning to give an update on the Police’s Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) initiative.

Suffolk Police joined several forces across England and Wales in October last year when it launched the initiative in an attempt to make sure the force only responded to calls when necessary in cases of concerns for a person’s mental health, medical or social care.

Suffolk Police HQ in Martlesham, Ipswich. Picture: Joao Santos
Suffolk Police HQ in Martlesham, Ipswich. Picture: Joao Santos

Although concerns remain over whether this could mean certain people are left without help, Mr Skevington promised residents would still get the support they needed.

He said: “It’s not about the police ignoring events that involve people at risk or in need of safety. If it’s a matter of life or death, the police have got a responsibility to go. They [the operators] won’t simply hang up, it’s absolutely not the case of pulling up the shutters.”

The scheme in its current form, Mr Skevington explained, only applies to calls where safety concerns are raised but there isn’t an immediate threat to life, serious harm, or a crime being committed. In such cases, operators are trained to signpost people to other agencies who are more equipped and have been trained, to deal with such cases.

With 350 incidents a week relating to concerns for safety, the force has already seen a significant reduction in the number of times officers have to attend a scene.

Mr Skevington added: “What we are finding is that through good communication, problems can be resolved quite easily and practically. From a policing perspective, it’s landing exactly how we wanted it to land.”

Nevertheless, several councillors raised their concerns over those falling through the net of other organisations, and the police’s inability to know what happens to those who have been signposted.

Mr Skevington maintained, however, that the force was in constant self-assessment in case anything went wrong, as well as being one of those chosen to be under review by the Home Office to assess the viability of the scheme.

A more extensive update on the police’s performance, which is set to include key statistics, is expected in March when the board meets again.