Title and Reference – PCC/D/075
Subject: Continuation of Counselling Provision for Bedfordshire Police Officers and Staff Members
Report of: Police and Crime Commissioner
The Commissioning Team would like to continue to commission a counselling service to all Bedfordshire Police Officers & Staff requiring wellbeing support.
It is estimated that the service will be able to support 36+ Police Officers/ Police Staff members of crime based upon an estimate session cost of £55 and an average of 8 sessions per victim (the total budget proposed takes into consideration overheads, managerial and supervisory costs).
Bedfordshire Police are in the process of developing a wellbeing function building upon previous trauma support routes such as Trauma Risk Incident management (TRiM) and EAP which have been operating in the force for over 5 years. While TRiM and EAP offer signposting and initial support to Bedfordshire Police Officers and Staff, there continues to be a stigma regarding mental health and the connotation that police personnel must be strong and accepting mental health concerns is a sign of weakness.
The current service provision also does not extend to therapeutic services which can offer treatment for some mental health concerns.With a wellbeing team being introduced in April 2021, the force is improving the welfare provision available to officers and staff, increasing the number of peer-led support groups, and increasing awareness activities however there is a requirement for a signposting mechanism for these peer support groups as they do not have a counselling/ trauma therapy capability.
A police officer & staff focused trauma counselling service is required to support the force as psychological illness is one of the top three illnesses impacting the force with the most notional days lost to sickness absence. As a result of the complexities of policing roles within Bedfordshire, compounded financial and resourcing pressures, there is a need to provide counselling support for officers with the aim of reducing the likelihood of PTSD and complex PTSD which are impactive personally, financially and in terms of resourcing. At present trauma counselling is only available through the EAP which is available to all police staff and officers. While this support is sufficient, the associated relationship with the Occupational Health Department presents a barrier as officers often fear negative workplace changes such as the removal of their firearms ticket if they admit they require mental health support.
The Federation completed a survey in 2016 which highlighted that 39% of officers were seeking mental health support and more than a quarter of officers have taken sick leave attributed to mental health issues. Contrastingly, 65% of respondents advised that they still went to work despite their mental health concerns as they felt they should not take the time off. In comparison to the national figure in which 1 in 4 people experience mental health concerns, the rate of mental health concerns in policing is much higher.
In line with priority 2 of the Police and Crime Plan, policing culture and wellbeing is a focus of the PCC and subsequently the OPCC. The PCC has a statutory responsibility to deliver an effective and efficient police service and effectiveness often leads from appropriate resourcing. Bedfordshire Police is a force that suffers with high attrition rates and high levels of psychological sickness. The PCC pledged to support the force by providing additional mental health and counselling support for staff members, placing welfare as a priority.
The service provision of externally funded counselling support for officers and staff started in April 2022 with the current provider, The Counselling Foundation. During the year The Counselling Foundation have developed a working arrangement with the Bedfordshire Police Wellbeing Team, attending events and providing training through Brew Monday sessions. The Counselling Foundation have developed working connections within the force and have started to engage with management to imbed the offer for support and also to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
Additionally, The Counselling Foundation have agreed an amendment to the agreement with the Commissioning Team to encompass all trauma/ counselling needs beyond just those of officers and staff who had been a victim of crime as a result of service feedback. Originally referrals were low as low numbers officers and staff were involved in crime personally, limiting their ability to access the service. Following feedback that counselling would be beneficial to officers and staff despite the cause of their mental health concerns or trauma, The Counselling Foundation begun accepting referrals on the understanding that a person’s mental health, despite the reason, can impede their performance in the workplace.
Despite the engagement, referrals remained low in funding year 2022/2023 and only £4,000 of the £20,000 allocation was utilised, this resulted in approximately £16,000 underspend in the Community Safety Fund. The Commissioning Team pose a recommendation for the provision of a counselling provision for police officers and staff to continue to carry forward the underspent funding from 2022/2023 into 2023/2024 to continue the work they have started. Given the stigma surrounding mental health and connotations of in force support and their relationship with Occupational Health, the ability for The Counselling Foundation to further build trust would be valuable allowing them to continue outreach activity, imbedding of processes and forging the relationship that has begun with the Wellbeing Team.
If the project received referrals that exceed the funding amount and a greater demand is seen, a decision paper would be drawn up to request an uplift from the Community Safety Fund to the full allocation of £20,000.
Demand through the provider will be mapped and understood as awareness increases and referral rates increase. In future funding rounds, there will be a view to provide long-term funding opportunities for 3 years, with a funding envelope developed to ensure the demand is suitably met.
To note decision
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner
I hereby approve the recommendations above.