Concerns have been raised about plans to reduce police attendance at mental health call-outs in the UK, with fears that this could put social workers at risk of harm. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Cymru has warned that this initiative endangers the safety of staff. The Home Office, however, argues that this move allows for more appropriate mental health care and frees up the police.
The story of Sadie, an approved mental health professional (AMHP), highlights the potential dangers faced by social workers. AMHPs assess individuals with severe mental illness to determine if they need to be detained or sectioned to a hospital. These assessments involve considering potential risks, such as a history of violence. In some cases, AMHPs call on the police to provide support during the assessment. Sadie’s experience of being assaulted after the police refused to support her emphasizes the need for enhanced safety measures for social workers.
Sadie believes that the presence of the police can often deescalate situations and prevent incidents like the one she experienced. She expressed frustration at the lack of support and highlighted the impact on the dignity of her client, who was exposed to their neighbors during the incident. The increasing number of assaults on social workers has caused emotional distress and raised concerns about the safety of the profession.
The lack of support not only jeopardizes the safety of social workers but also has detrimental effects on the recovery of clients. Messy assessments can lead to a lack of trust, increased restraint, and a sense of powerlessness among clients. Sadie fears that the situation will worsen with the implementation of the Right Care, Right Person initiative, which aims to reduce the demand on the police. Another social worker, David, expressed concern that without police support, there is a risk of serious incidents occurring during mental health assessments, citing a recent case in Wales where a mother was stabbed to death.
Abyd Quinn Aziz, a member of the BASW Cymru’s national committee, also raises concerns about the impact of the initiative on the recruitment of AMHPs. The shortage of these professionals and the risks associated with the reduced police support pose significant challenges. It is important to note that the social workers do not blame the police but instead highlight the lack of resources for individuals with severe mental health issues.
Assistant Chief Constable Wendy Gunney, Wales lead of Right Care, Right Person, assures that the scheme will be implemented in collaboration with health and social care to ensure its success. The Home Office spokesperson acknowledges the need to provide resources to the police and work with Welsh officials to address the concerns raised by the social workers.
In conclusion, the plans to reduce police attendance at mental health call-outs in the UK have sparked fears among social workers about their safety. The lack of police support during mental health assessments puts these professionals at risk and can have detrimental effects on the recovery of clients. It is crucial to address these concerns and ensure the safety of both social workers and individuals with severe mental health issues.