Photo: RONALDCCWONG /CC
Photo: RONALDCCWONG /CC

Fully fund mental health services

Ben Goldstone, Lambeth and South West London Socialist Party

Sir Mark Rowley, the chief of the Metropolitan Police, has announced that he intends to stop officers attending mental health calls from September, in an initiative called ‘Right Care Right Person’ (RCRP).

Who is going to replace the officers attending these situations? Ideally, specially trained mental health responders would be available, but currently, the NHS, mental health, and social care services are already stretched to breaking point.

The programme has been running in Humberside since 2020 and has also been introduced in North Yorkshire and Lancashire, with its aim being to free up officers to do ‘back to basics’ policing. The Home Office has said that RCRP will soon be standard practice across England and Wales.

Pulling the police from attending mental health crises, without actually recruiting and funding alternative professionals is surely only going to lead to vulnerable people being put in more danger.

The Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) Leads Network has expressed concerns. It says it could lead to 999 call handlers declining to send officers to incidents where they are required to protect the public, and possibly lead to people with protected characteristics being stopped from receiving the same level of support as others.

It is true that often a police officer is not the ‘right person’, and having police attending mental health crises can sometimes exacerbate the situation, with people feeling as though they are being treated like criminals instead of people in need of support and understanding.

Democratic control

What is needed is democratically run public services, including the police, which are accountable to local committees made up of trade unions, local communities, and local authorities, so working-class people have a say in how they are run and what their priorities are.

For instance, instructing police to stop wasting time arresting innocent protesters! Another necessity is a massive expansion of public services, such as the NHS and social care, so that high-quality care can be provided to all, including those who are experiencing mental health crises.