£15m pledge to help end mental health police custody

Theresa May is expected to announce new government plans to end the problem of people with mental health issues being detained in police cells.

The Home Secretary will commit up to £15 million to provide health-based alternatives for those held under the Mental Health Act.

About 4,000 people a year spend time in detention in police cells under the Act.

The proposal comes after a 16-year-old girl was held in a police cell for two days in November by police in Devon because no mental health bed could be found.

Devon and Cornwall Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton was so frustrated by the situation he took to Twitter, posting: “We have a 16yr old girl suffering from mental health issues held in police custody. There are no beds available in the uk! #unacceptable.”

The home secretary is to tell the Police Federation that the extra funding will save police time and ensure that vulnerable people receive the medical care and support they need.

People detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 can be held in a hospital or police station for up to 72 hours.

May is to tell the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth: “Nobody wins when the police are sent to look after people suffering from mental health problems; vulnerable people don’t get the care they need and deserve, and the police can’t get on with the job they are trained to do.

“Last year, over 4,000 people detained under section 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act were held in a police cell rather than in a health-based place of safety.

“The government will provide the bed and the funding that is needed to stop that happening. This will mean up to £15m of new funding to deliver health-based places of safety in England and a guarantee from this government that no person with mental health problems will be detained by the police due to the lack of a suitable alternative.

“The right place for a person suffering a mental health crisis is a bed, not a police cell. And the right people to look after them are medically trained professionals, not police officers.”

The new legislation in next week’s Queen’s speech will also ensure that police cells are only used as a place of safety for adults if the person’s behaviour is so extreme that they cannot otherwise be safely managed.