Minors held in police cells under Mental Health Act
At least 347 children as young as 11 were held in police cells last year because of worries about their mental health.
The majority of police stations questioned have been used as a place of safety for minors who need detaining under the Mental Health Act.
The law allows police to take people they think are mentally ill and in “need of care or control” to a safe place for a health assessment for a maximum 72 hours.
A place of safety for assessment would usually be a hospital or care home, but police stations are also permitted under the Act; of 42 forces replying to a freedom of information plea, 35 had held minors under the Mental Health Act last year.
The Department of Health is now working with the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to improve this service, to provide better local services to ensure a “health-based place of safety” is available and get minors the immediate care they require.
Health Minister Norman Lamb said:
All services should be working together to minimise the chance that children and young people with a mental illness end up in a police cell.
Using police cells in this way should happen as little as possible and only where there are circumstances where it is unavoidable or where the person's behaviour poses an unmanageably high risk.
The Department of Health is working with the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to develop better local protocols between police and mental health services so that people who are found in immediate need of care and control can get the most appropriate service and, where needed, a health-based place of safety as soon as possible.
We have invested a total of £54 million over the four years to 2014-15 to deliver better mental health care to children and young people when they experience mental health issues.
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