Police Officers (Mental Health Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th April 2022.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

3. To ask the Scottish Government what work it and Police Scotland have undertaken to ensure that police officers have access to additional trained mental health workers. (S6O-00960)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Action 15 of the mental health strategy commits to fund 800 additional mental health workers in key settings. As at 1 January 2022, we have achieved 95 per cent of that target. That includes more than 26 whole-time equivalent posts to support those held in police station custody suites.

Police officers and staff can access mental health support, including a 24/7 employee assistance programme—EAP—which offers professional support via a team of trained wellbeing and counselling practitioners. Also, the trauma risk management—TRiM—process supports officers and staff affected by potentially traumatic incidents at work.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

A survey found that 29 per cent of officers were experiencing moderate burn-out, a further 16 per cent endured high levels of burn-out and one third of officers went to work when they were mentally unwell.

As the minister has just mentioned, Police Scotland has an employee assistance programme that aims to help officers with their mental health. If officers need more support than the six one-hour sessions on offer, they are told that there is nothing more for them. Why have the worst-affected officers been left without the support that they deserve?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

That is the direct responsibility of Police Scotland, although, as I am sure that Willie Rennie would say, it is the Government’s responsibility to help to fund such things.

Police Scotland works with a range of local and national service providers to provide care and assistance to those in distress. We fund a wide range of mental health services that can be accessed by first responders.

I mentioned the £2.1 million fund to expand the NHS 24 mental health hub, which will be available to the public 24/7, and the funding of £1 million to roll out the distress brief intervention programme on a national basis. It is also worth saying that there are additional supports for officers, which can take on further assistance—I mentioned EAP and the TRiM process.

Beyond that, it is always open to officers to speak to those who are designated within the force in their area about issues that they have. Those can include not just issues with mental and physical health and wellbeing, but all sorts of other issues that might cause stress, such as those related to money or traumatic incidents that officers have had to endure. We will continue to fund those services for police officers. At the same time, of course, we have more police officers than virtually anywhere else in the United Kingdom and those officers are paid substantially more than anywhere else in the UK.