Detaining someone in a police cell while they are experiencing a mental health crisis ‘simply cannot be justified in a civilised society’, especially if that someone is a child or young person under 18.
So said Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb in his recent GOV.UK article, a reiteration of his views expressed at the recent Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat summit.
Today, those views become part of a published government commitment. Following the joint Department of Health and Home Office review, ministers will now take action to ensure children and young people under the age of 18 are never held in police cells as places of safety if detained under Section 135 or Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
Commenting on the announcement, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:
It’s essential that anyone experiencing a mental health crisis gets urgent, compassionate care in the right environment. I’ve been very clear that I want to ban the use of police cells for under-18s who need mental health care and I’m pleased that this is one of the main recommendations of the review.
We’ve already taken action on this through the Crisis Care Concordat. Nationally, the use of police cells has reduced by 24 per cent this year for adults and children and I hope to see this trend continue - changing the law will be a crucial step.
Norman Lamb has also welcomed the positive engagement coming from police leaders who are keen for their forces to engage with - and be supported by - mental health professionals and enhanced information sharing between themselves and local health and care services. Street triage schemes, currently being piloted and showing significant success in reducing use of police cells as places of safety, are the embodiment of this desire. In the longer term these schemes could form part of 365 days a year, 24 hour crisis care. Detective Inspector Daniel Thorpe recently gave voice to this worthy ambition.