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Oxford

The police, young people and mental health…in Wiltshire…

Today I’m reproducing an article I wrote for my family column in the weekly newspaper, The Gazette & Herald, which covers much of the county of Wiltshire. It was published on Thursday August 29 2013  and I’m reproducing it here at the request of one of my Twitter followers, an organisation which I much admire, Wiltshire Mind. To follow me on Twitter, you’d be most welcome at @mum3fi, and you can find the Gazette & Herald @wiltsgazette. 

 

Some time ago,  I wrote about an Ofsted report into the safeguarding of vulnerable children in Wiltshire and the fact that the county’s local authority had been found wanting.

I also reported on the fact that the 2012 report had prompted action to be taken and went through some of the measures to improve the situation for vulnerable and looked-after children in the county. I should point out that the report didn’t suggest any children had come to harm as a result of failings.

However, buried within that 2012 report was a comment which really stood out for me – and which I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of ever since.

It said ‘the established practice by police of using section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to hold some children or young person in custody where they have committed an offence is inappropriate’.

It goes on to say ‘this practice is under review given that there is now a dedicated CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) out-of-hours service that can provide more timely and potentially more appropriate assessments’.

This prompted me to find out about Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. It’s headed ‘mentally disordered persons found in public places’. It allows that a constable can remove and detain someone for up to 72 hours until he, or she, is examined by a registered practitioner or mental health professional.

What does this mean? Have the police in Wiltshire – or anywhere else for that matter – been holding young people and children, in custody for up to 72 hours when it’s suspected they might have mental health issues?

Since raising questions around two months ago, I’ve been on a journey of epic proportions around the ‘system’. But the answer to my key question is – yes.

A number of children each year have been arrested and held, usually when they’ve committed an offence, and the police believe mental health issues have contributed in some way.

Several times the term ‘Freedom of Information’ was used by various voices but last week I finally got some figures from Wiltshire Constabulary. They are:

2009 – four children (under-18s) were held under Section 136.

2010 – six.

2011 – four.

2012 – three.

But to confuse matters even further these are not the definitive figures. The police have recorded ‘pure’ cases – those where a child clearly has, at first point of contact, mental health issues. However, there have also been a number of cases where an arrest has been made and police officers have subsequently sought help as they’ve suspected mental health issues.

Taking these cases into account as well, the total number of children between the end of 2010 and the end of 2012 who were held under Section 136 was 23.

So what has been done about it? The Wiltshire Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB –  partnership between Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Police and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust) insists much has been done.

In December 2012, mental health services for under-18s was taken over by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, known as Oxford Health.  It immediately introduced the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Protocol.

To cut through the jargon this means when police officers respond to a young person in ‘significant mental health distress or crisis’, the officer contacts CAMHS from the scene by phone. They can do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Emergency mental health assessments can then be offered or an appointment within 24 hours.

The officer provides information including:

*         Presentation – how is the young person behaving?

*         Need for medical attention – is the young person hurt?

*         Circumstances of the incident

*         Concerns regarding safeguarding or welfare

The CAMHS worker checks the electronic health record system to see if that young person is known. If so, the worker may speak directly with the young person and propose a safety plan or speak to parents or carers.

If distress can be reduced through a phone conversation, the young person is normally offered an urgent assessment on the morning of the next working day.  If concerns remain, an emergency assessment can be offered in a safe location such as a CAMHS clinic or police station within two hours.

If the young person is not known, there may be unknown risks and an urgent mental health assessment can be offered.

The options are discussed with the officer at the scene who always reserves the right to use a 136 detention or other police powers.

In a statement WSCB said:

“It’s a system which enables officers to gain a mental health perspective to inform their decision-making and consider alternative options.  It also ensures CAMHS are alerted to mental health concerns at an early stage stage and can offer an urgent assessment whether the young person is detained or not.

“The benefits of this collaboration between mental health services and the police, is that distressed young people who require urgent mental health support can receive this quickly, in the least restrictive manner which ensures their immediate needs and risks are reduced.”

The Board says that so far, the new system is working.

“We are pleased to report as result of this protocol there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of 136 detentions under the Mental Health Act of young people under 18 years.

“In the last two years, prior to the introduction of the protocol, there were 23 ‘136’ detentions – this has reduced to three since December 2012.”

Mental health issues in the under-18s - how do the police deal with this?

Mental health issues in the under-18s – how do the police deal with this?

 

We’re not talking about many children, of course, but we are talking about children. Children suspected of having some kind of mental health issue. Children who could, quite legally, be  held for up to three days. Let’s hope this new support system keeps on working.

 

 

 

Now I really have got a little Klout! – Have you?

Today I have done a little dance around the room because my Klout score has gone up to 65 – the highest it’s ever been.

This may seem like a small victory but it’s taken me four years to get to 60 and a week to jump five points – so I believe blogging more often must have something to do with that. It’s not so much the blog itself, as only a few people take the time to comment on the blog page. It’s the interactions and comments on other virtual spaces, the shares and the likes which seem to make the difference.

 

What's your number?

What’s your number?

There are many analytics around Klout – which will interest those of you who use figures, numbers, systems, columns, detail and ROI stuff. I tend, according to my profile (and it’s true) more general results – like seeing 65 pop up unexpectedly on a Monday afternoon.

When I started learning about social media and its potential three years ago, and learned about Klout and the fact that it measures your true influence across the internet, my score was 28. That was at a time where I messed around a bit with Facebook, had a Twitter account but did nothing with it – and the same with LinkedIn. I’ve not really done Pinterest, Flickr or other things which are now more common.

 

Gradually my influence rose as I became more active. As I became more active I saw more results. I gathered case studies for stories, ideas for stories, have made friends and have made connections which have brought me clients. But it’s not been overnight, it’s been gradual and it’s required work. But I can point to at least two clients, one long term, which have been the direct result of doing stuff in the virtual space. You would be surprised who is watching you and saying nothing but absorbing that information. I’m not talking about this in a creepy sense, but more in a ‘putting yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind’ sense.

When I reached the golden 50 – I got a free gift of business cards – thanks very much. That was when I found out that in the USA, there are many high end business activities or events that you cannot access without a score that high. Big internet companies will filter guests by looking at how ‘engaged’ they are. I suspect that this will be coming our way too, though we’re not there yet.

So everyone, don’t be afraid of Klout. If you like facts and figures, it will give you all of that data. If, like me, you just want to see results and are not hung up on the detail, then know this one fact – if you engage, you will be engaging and if you’re engaging, you will be engaged – and I’m not necessarily talking romance here!

 

What to talk about today? Riots, the economy, or exam results?

What a day today, the rain in Swindon hasn’t stopped for a minute and it’s been a momentous day for many young people awaiting A level results.

Five minutes ago that was me.

Turning up at my school as early as possible.

But I wasn’t one of those who stood there crying with joy that I’d got As or even Bs. I was one of the many who hadn’t quite flunked the exams – but as near as dammit. I got a C, D and an E.

In spite of working hard and achieving As or Bs in all of my course work, I’d flipped out in the actual exams and scored really badly.

In my favourite subject, English Literature, I got a D. I completely failed one paper.

Just one four-hour period and that was my legacy to English – that’s how it felt. My only saving grace was that I’d taken an extra English exam – which doesn’t exist now – called an S level and in that I’d got a distinction.

In a few seconds my dreams of going to Hull University were snuffed out. I had to get on the phone and try to find an alternative through UCAS. I didn’t even have good telephone skills at that time.

However I never even considered not going into higher education – it was just a question of how to achieve that with poor results.

Somehow the then lowly Bath College of Higher Education, now Bath Spa University, was doing a fairly new course and they offered me an interview. It was then known as a teacher training college and I experienced a lot of ‘sniffy’ comments when I mentioned it. ‘It just wasn’t the same as university, you know”.

The interview went well, with a wonderful lady who became a mentor for me, Dr Mara Kalnins. I immediately felt at home, was offered a place and thus began three very happy years.

I learned that it’s okay to fail – it doesn’t mean you are rubbish and it doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities. It means you have to open your mind.

Some weeks later, results were published from my school in the local paper. The school, unsurprisingly boasted about those who’d got into Oxbridge and other well-respected institutions. The last sentence named me and said I was going to ‘Bath’.

 

That was it.

I immediately felt that that ambiguity might suggest that I was going to the University of Bath, which is highly regarded rather than the college of higher education across the city.

 

I don’t know what was more pathetic – me for caring or the school for doing that. It felt like a slap across the face.

I’ve got no regrets about the path my life took – I met wonderful people, did a fabulous course and have watched as Bath College of HE has grown in stature.

It’s fabulous to succeed, to work hard and to get where you want to be – but it’s even more fabulous to fail, and fail again but to get up, get on and still succeed in the end. I’m sure success is all the sweeter if you’ve had to experience failure along the way.

 

Take a deep breath and find another way!

We all know how excruciatingly annoying is that person who’s always seemed to succeed at everything – watch the Apprentice to find out about those types.

 

So to all the A and AS level students out there – well done for your hard work. If you got the grades you wanted, brilliant.

 

If you didn’t, look for the other path and don’t lower your expectations just because you may have to take a less obvious route.

By the way, on a completely different note – anyone who wants to see my latest documentary for ITV Wales on OCD you can now – http://www.youtube.com/user/mumsinmedia

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