Time is needed to implement changes in emergency responses to people in a mental health crisis
The Department of Health and Social Care has developed ‘Right Care, Right Person’, a National Partnership Agreement on mental health and policing, with the aim of ending the inappropriate and avoidable involvement of police in responding to incidents involving people with mental health needs.
Humberside Police and its partners pioneered the ‘Right Care, Right Person’ model. It took three years to develop using a local professional network of social care, health and police representatives.
The LGA agrees that the needs of people experiencing mental health crisis should be addressed by the most appropriate service, and this may not always be the police.
Concerns, however, have been raised by the LGA, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), and others, that this model is being rolled out too quickly, without the involvement of key local partners.
This risks undermining the positive approach advocated by the model as well as significant dangers to people experiencing mental distress, those who care for them, and adults and children in need of safeguarding.
With London’s Metropolitan Police having announced that it would introduce the model at the end of October 2023, the LGA is concerned that many other forces will introduce the approach without fully involving councils and other partners.
The LGA has written to the ministers responsible for mental health, social care, children and young people, and criminal justice, to underline that ‘Right Care, Right Person’ needs to be implemented in a much more managed way, to allow for councils and other partners to plan for its introduction.
We have had responses to the effect that, while they acknowledge our concerns and are willing to engage with us around developing specific guidance and monitoring impact, decisions around how or whether to roll out this approach ultimately rest with local police commanders.
However, ministers emphasised that any roll-out of ‘Right Care, Right Person’ should be developed in partnership with councils and the NHS.
The LGA also engaged with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and it has reassured us that they want to see police forces roll out ‘Right Care, Right Person’ with partners, rather than imposing it on them.
Children’s services have also not been meaningfully involved in the development of the National Partnership Agreement, and members of the LGA, ADASS and ADCS have highlighted safeguarding concerns for younger children living in a household with an adult in crisis and for older children who themselves may be in crisis, particularly children in care or 16 and 17-year-olds transitioning to independence.
Undertaking such a radical change in delivery without appropriate planning or engaging with established networks could increase the risk for people already vulnerable because of mental health crisis.
The LGA will, as ever, continue to work with government to identify the implications of ‘Right Care, Right Person’ for local government and cost any new burdens.
The need for local collaboration and partnership is key to the model being effective and successful.