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Welfare checks need to be addressed in National Partnership Agreement

The Home Office, NPCC, DHSC and NHS England are currently working on a National Partnership Agreement between the police service and health services.

There needs to be a greater understanding of the difference between missing persons and welfare checks, the Federation has said.

Forces are too often receiving calls from agencies who believe they are calling about a missing person when in reality the situation necessitates a welfare check.

It’s a conflation that the PFEW Missing Persons Lead, Paul Matthews, wants to see addressed in the upcoming National Partnership Agreement.

Example calls from the DWP have included:

West Yorkshire Chief Inspector Alan-Rhees-Cooper and PFEW National Board Member Paul Matthews have underlined that such requests do not relate to missing persons – but are requests for welfare checks - a role for which other services are better trained and more suited.

It comes back to the issue of the police service being that of the “last resort” amid ongoing concerns around the amount of police time spent dealing with mental health incidents, or sitting in A&E.

“If your house was on fire, you would call the fire service before calling the police. If it is a mental health issue, the mental health service should be called before the police,” Ch Insp Rhees-Cooper and Mr Matthews said.

“It appears from the outside that the 111 service (mental health option) is where we should be moving to in the future. I fully appreciate that the service is not yet equipped to take to cater to all areas of the country and requires further investment, but as a partnership, we need to agree on the direction we should be moving in.”

The pair are calling for this specific issue to be addressed in the upcoming National Partnerships Agreement. Incorporating the Right Care, Right Person principle – the agreement will set out the scenarios in which the police should and should not be dealing with mental health issues.

A monitoring and evaluation framework will also be put in place following the agreement.

They have further asked local partners, local DWP and local utility companies to become aware of the future direction and review their current policies.

Meanwhile the College and the NPCC are working on a “smarter practice product” – a detailed case study of Humberside’s application of Right Care, Right Person.

In January the DHSC outlined how they would use £150m capital investment to improve mental health care – it includes £7m for the procurement of mental health ambulances but will also go towards over 30 schemes for crisis cafes, crisis houses and other safe spaces.

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