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SPA to pilot psychological supervision for forensic staff

SPA Forensic Services are looking to begin the three year pilot next April.

From April, Scottish forensic service staff who are regularly exposed to traumatic material will be supported with regular sessions with a counsellor. 

It’s part of a pilot project, currently in the procurement stage, aiming at incorporating psychological supervision into professional practice. 

SPA Forensic Services sits separately from Police Scotland but provides services for both policing and the wider criminal justice system. 

The pilot, which is due to run for three years, will focus on those exposed to particularly traumatic material such as abuse imagery or analysis of firearms scenes. 

SPA Forensic Services Leadership Development Programme Lead, Darren Tattersall, told Police Oracle: “Although Forensic Services is a public sector organisation under the umbrella of the Scottish Police Authority, staff are not necessarily part of the investigative teams. 

“They are processing evidence from scenes, taking things to the lab for analysis and then feeding into the Police Scotland and the Crown office [but] they don’t have the things that typically support wellbeing such as teamwork and collaboration or actually seeing the end result. There's a little bit of a disconnect with that.” 

Currently there is an offering for forensic staff of TRiM assessments and subsequent employee assistance programmes, however it’s only for particularly traumatic incidents. 

Mr Tattersall explained that repeated exposure to drug deaths, domestic violence or child abuse imagery can also be traumatic in itself. 

“This is around can we do we better? Can we build psychological supervision into professional practice,” he said. 

“Rather than the whole stigma of I need to go to therapy, therefore, I'm failing as a human being - actually, don't worry about it, because we're all in therapy and that's absolutely fine. So creating that culture where it becomes acceptable to go and it's just part of what we do to keep ourselves safe.” 

The pilot programme will focus on around 100-120 staff members with a starting point of four sessions per year. The number of sessions however can be increased or reduced as necessary. 

It’s not obligatory to attend sessions but Mr Tattersall will ask everyone to engage - even if they are hostile to the idea. He said evidencing that reluctance/hostility to it is also beneficial to understanding the pilot - where completely disengaging gives no form of measurement at all. 

In terms of evaluation - a mixed method approach will be used. The plan is to use wellbeing assessments as well as HR data on work-related absence and asking for feedback/evaluations from participants. 

Providers of the pilot will also be asked to give suggested improvements and produce a final report with results and recommendations for the future. 

Mr Tattersall concluded: “It's all driven by people's performance at work, our duty of care and setting people up for success. That’s whether they're a forensic scene examiner for their entire career, they've finished and retire or whether they're here for a couple of years and go, actually, it's not for me at all.” 

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