Fed chair hopes ‘asks’ made to covenant by national branch ‘drive change’

The chair of Dyfed Powys Police Federation says he hopes the recent ‘asks’ made of the Police Covenant by the national body ‘drive change’.

Gareth Jones was speaking after representatives from the branch met with the Federation’s Welsh lead, Nicky Ryan, to discuss the ‘suggestions’ put forward by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

The Federation has shared the ‘calls’ it made to the Covenant Oversight Board which included prioritising the mental health of officers and their families.

Gareth said the meeting gave the Welsh branches, including Dyfed Powys, a chance to hear and discuss what is being asked of the Police Covenant.

“I fully support all of the ‘suggestions’ made by the national Federation in relation to the covenant, and hope these ‘asks’ drive the change we all want to see,” said Gareth.

“Everything the Federation is asking is felt at a local level, especially in regard to the mental health and wellbeing of our members. It’s no secret that morale within the Force is low, making it more important than ever to focus on the welfare of officers, as well as their families.

“Let’s just hope that if these asks do drive change, we see the same results here in Wales.”

The recent ‘asks’ made by the PFEW included:

  • Additional financial support for officers impacted mentally and physically
  • A review of the demand across the Forces,  which would include the outcomes of the work by Sir Stephen House being taken into account
  • The response to trauma via a ‘trauma tracker’
  • A review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) system that makes it fit and relevant for police officers who sustain injuries.

Nicky is campaigning to ensure the Police Covenant is adopted by the Welsh Government. 

She said: “I feel like the covenant has helped to focus our minds a little bit better, and made us all think about the progress we have made so far.

“It’s a very difficult time for policing at the moment. We’re experiencing a cost of living crisis and honestly, the recent Pay and Morale Survey made for bleak reading. It’s all a bit of a mess and the only people that will ever change that is the Government. 

“We have actively recruited 20,000 more officers to join our forces and we can’t break them. In fact, we are now recruiting younger generations who are far more aware of their own mental health and therefore, are not prepared to break for a job that doesn’t pay them very well.

“It’s about time the Government started looking after the people who look after the public.”

Nicky said the covenant ensures that somebody is now held to account, with issues being highlighted directly sent to the policing minister and the minister having to report annually to the Home Secretary.

She continued: “The covenant gives the Fed another way in and hopefully because it generates some accountability, it will drive the change we want to see.

“Of course, there is still a very long way to go, but it’s definitely baby steps in the right direction.”

Mirroring Nicky’s comments, the Federation’s national wellbeing secretary Belinda Goodwin said the covenant will ‘help to shape the future of policing’.

National wellbeing lead Belinda Goodwin

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,” said Belinda.

“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 additional 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.

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