Fed chair hopeful that covenant will drive change within policing


PUBLISHED 03 Feb 2023

IN News

The chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation says she hopes that the Government will finally start to listen, after the national body called for the Police Covenant to prioritise the mental health of officers and their families, urging the focus to be on ensuring consistent policies are followed across all forces nationwide.

Liz Groom says the covenant offers ‘a glimmer of hope’ after it was revealed the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) had made a number of ‘asks’ to the Covenant Delivery Group, which will then be fed back to the Covenant Oversight Group.

The suggestions made by the national body cover reviewing the current demands on officers, looking at the impact of trauma, as well as managing consistency across all force policies and procedures nationwide.

“The whole idea of the covenant was to not only ensure the physical and mental health of our officers is looked after but to hold somebody to account if changes are not made. Surely, having a lawful document like this created gives us hope that our voices will be finally listened to?” said Liz.

“I fully support all the recent asks made by the national Federation to the covenant. The mental health and wellbeing of our officers need to be taken seriously – especially in the current climate. The pressures and demands surrounding policing are only increasing and the cost of living crisis is not helping.

“Without a doubt, better procedures need to be put in place, on a national level and then fed down consistently to forces, to ensure the wellbeing of our officers and their families is prioritised. 

“I’m hopeful that the covenant will drive some of the changes we so desperately want to see.”

The calls from the Federation come just months before the covenant is set to be reviewed, with national wellbeing secretary Belinda Goodwin saying that ‘questions will be asked’ if changes are not being seen to be made.

Belinda says: “I do believe, when it comes to the mental health of our officers, our voices are finally starting to be heard – and that is thanks to the Police Covenant, as this document finally holds those in power to account. The Home Secretary will have a lot of questions to answer if results are not being seen.”

The Police Covenant was published and enshrined in law as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and is the Government’s pledge to recognise the bravery, commitment and sacrifice of those who work, or have worked, in policing.

Belinda continued: “Nobody should be at detriment just because they are a police officer. Ideally, the covenant will ensure everyone who works with the force leaves with the same mental and physical health as when they began their role.

“Of course, the covenant is mainly there for future officers. This will help to shape the future of policing.” 

The recent ‘asks’ made by the Federation included:

Belinda added: “If we don’t start to change the wellbeing support available for cops, then we will continue to lose officers. One more life taken because of the job, is one too many.

“Police officers are around 400 to 600 times more likely to experience trauma than the ordinary civilian. The trauma our officers are exposed to is unbelievable and they’re not being dealt with individually – it’s as if there is a ‘one size fits all’ way to deal with wellbeing and mental health within the force and that’s not acceptable.”

The Fed is calling for a better system to be put in place, which would flag the amount of trauma each officer is exposed to, by way of indicating to line managers which individuals might require extra support.

“It’s all about being proactive, not reactive. It shouldn’t be accepted that recurring trauma is undealt with. We are all human beings underneath the uniform and that cannot be forgotten,” added Belinda, who also raised concerns that funding for the Police Treatment Centres is at risk due to the cost of living crisis.

Belinda continued: “One of the other main concerns we have is that occupational health standards differ from force to force.

“Every force gets their own occupational health budget, which means – especially now because of the cost of living crisis – that standards of support available to officers is not consistent throughout the country. While some get very good support, others get below standard – and this just is not acceptable.”

On the back of their calls, Belinda explained how a chief medical officer has now been employed to oversee the consistency of occupational health across every force.

“The same goes for Operation Hampshire, which ensures each force is following a set of national standards when officers are assaulted,” continued Belinda.

“Nobody – not even officers – should go to work and expect to be assaulted. And if an officer is assaulted, the process to receive compensation should – we believe – be made much easier for them.

“Consistency is so important because at the moment, we’re finding it’s just a postcode lottery – and that is not fair. Everyone puts on the same uniform and does the same job, it should not matter where they live.

“The great thing is, putting consistent policing and procedures in place is being worked on.”

Belinda also spoke about the importance of ensuring the families of officers are supported too.

“It sounds cliche but as officers, we run towards danger – and that’s part of the job. What we don’t want to do, is take that danger home with us. The trauma our officers are experiencing isn’t just impacting them, it’s impacting their families too,” she added.

“It’s imperative that families receive support too. After all, without our families, we wouldn’t be able to do our job.

“And this should be the case from day one. As soon as officers join the Force, they should be made aware of the support available to them and their families.”

Belinda said a positive is that more people are ‘speaking up’ about mental health, with the topic becoming far less of a stigma.

“What I’d like to see now is more chief officers speaking about their mental health experiences, by way of encouraging others to do the same. As an organisation, we’re moving in the right direction but we have a long way to go.

“We’ve raised our concerns and we will not be taking our fingers off the pulse anytime soon. The issues we have raised need to be addressed.”