Home Secretary launches Richmond Fellowship’s place of safety pilot

Home Secretary Theresa May has officially launched Richmond Fellowship’s pilot scheme to trial an alternative ‘place of safety’ to police custody for individuals in mental distress.

It’s the first time a voluntary sector provider is working in partnership with the NHS and police to provide an alternative place of safety to give a better experience for people who are detained pending a mental health assessment.

The three month pilot is running at Richmond Fellowship’s supported housing scheme in Horsham, Sussex. A bedroom with en-suite has been specially fitted out to create a calm and supportive environment for the police to bring an individual to. Our staff will be available to support them until an NHS psychiatrist is able to make an assessment of their situation.

Richmond Fellowship is working with Sussex Police and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to pilot the scheme.

At the launch Ms May said: “When vulnerable people with mental health needs suffer a breakdown, or a psychotic episode, we know that very often the police are he first to be called on to respond. But all too often, because of a lack of access to health-based places of safety, the police are forced to take someone detained under Section 136 to a police cell, for want of somewhere else to go.

People experiencing a mental health crisis need a bed, not a cell. They deserve a proper assessment of their needs in a proper healthcare setting. They need compassion, medical help and a safe, non-intimidating place to go.

“This pilot is vital. It demonstrates how charities and non-government organisations can work effectively with the public sector to fill the gap and provide such provision. I hope the example set by Richmond Fellowship and Sussex police will inspire others to seek solutions where traditional services are not available.”

Richmond Fellowship chief executive Derek Caren said: “As a voluntary sector organisation we’re keen to explore what part we can play in providing alternative places of safety for individuals in crisis when they’re at their most vulnerable.

“We’re really excited to be working with the local NHS and police in Sussex to trial this kind of support and if successful we hope it could be a model that could be made available in other parts of the country.”

Sussex-place-of-safety-pilotJohn is currently being supported by Richmond Fellowship and has been taken into police custody twice whilst experiencing a mental health crisis. He said: “Being in a police cell was terrible. I was already low and this made you feel even worse. You felt like you’d done something wrong when you’re just not well. I’m definitely for this scheme, it has to be a much better place to bring people to.”

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