Teenagers with mental illness will no longer be held in police cells

The Guardian reports that teenagers suffering with mental health problems will no longer be detained in police cells under reforms to be announced by the home secretary, Theresa May.

This comes about as an overhaul of the mental health laws in England and Wales will ensure that police cells are used only as a place of safety for adults when their behaviour is so extreme they cannot be managed elsewhere.

The joint Home Office and Department of Health review of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act will also recommend reducing the maximum length of detention of someone in mental distress from 72 to 24 hours.

The move is the culmination of a sustained drive by the home secretary to reduce the use of police cells as a “place of safety” for mentally ill people and boost the supply of health-based places of safety.

The problem is particularly acute for under-18s: 236 children who were sectioned last year were held in a police cell because of “a non-criminal health” issue.

The underlying problem is caused by a shortage of local health-based places of safety, which piles pressure on police cells. A quarter of health providers say there are not enough places to meet demand in their area and a majority – 105 – of local authorities with social services responsibilities have only one health-based place of safety.

These shortages mean mental health issues take up more than 20% of police time. Police cars rather than ambulances are used in more than 75% of cases to transport people to places of safety.

It is understood that the health department has been encouraged to make extra resources available to create more beds for children and adolescents, which would be matched by significant savings in the police budget, making the move cost-neutral across government.

Full story