News story

New funding for safe places for people in mental health crisis

Government opens bidding to fund health based places of safety to stop those in mental health crisis being held in police cells.

The front of a police car, showing the police logo

When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis they need care from healthcare professionals in the right place. Too often the only safe place available is a police cell, which can add to the person’s suffering. This £15 million fund will help to provide health and community based places of safety to prevent vulnerable people being held in police cells.

The funding can be used to:

  • refurbish or improve existing health-based places of safety, for example to increase capacity
  • build new places of safety
  • make existing places of safety suitable for people aged 18 and under
  • create mental health crisis cafes or places of calm
  • provide ambulance transport to places of safety (so a police car is not used)
  • provide vehicles for mobile services to respond to mental health crises in the community

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, and Theresa May, Home Secretary, want to prevent people in crisis, who have committed no crime, from being held in a police cell because health services are not available in time.

Jeremy Hunt said:

Mental illness is not a crime - we want to end the scandal of people in crisis being unnecessarily locked up in a police cell. This funding will mean local areas can invest in creating safe places so people get the best support.

We have made monumental strides in the way we think about and treat mental illness in this country in the last few years, but we must accelerate progress even further. Our shared vision of a 7-day mental health service means people will get the care they need, when they need it.

Progress has already been made to decrease the use of police cells – there was a 32% reduction between April 2013 and March 2015. However, use of police cells still varies considerably across the country.

There are 23 priority areas, covering 10 police forces, where the use of police cells is amongst the highest. A joint letter from the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary is being sent to Crisis Care Concordat groups in these areas inviting them to bid for funding.

The 10 force areas, where the money will be targeted, are:

  • Avon and Somerset

  • Cleveland

  • Derbyshire

  • Devon and Cornwall

  • Essex

  • Lincolnshire

  • Nottinghamshire

  • South Yorkshire

  • Sussex

  • West Yorkshire

Theresa May said:

I have always been clear that people experiencing a mental health crisis should receive care and support rather than being held in a police cell.

While progress is being made, in some areas there is still a long way to go to improve outcomes for people with mental health needs.

This funding will ensure there are alternatives to police cells available right around the country because nobody wins when the police are sent to look after people experiencing a mental health crisis – vulnerable people don’t get the care they need and deserve, and the police can’t get on with the job they are trained to do.

Through local Crisis Care Concordat groups, organisations, including health trusts, local authorities and the third sector, are also able to bid for funding for new health based placed of safety.

A pilot, conducted by the Home Office and third-sector provider, the Richmond fellowship, in 2015 showed that, while traditionally places of safety have been health-based, there is the potential for third-party organisations to provide this care.

Published 8 May 2016