Today (Tuesday 16th January 2018) Gwent Police signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Samaritans to support those in custody.
On average each week, in England and Wales, it’s believed someone will take their own life within three days of being released from police custody. There is also an increased risk of suicide and self-harm during periods of detention.
Gwent Police are working together with Newport Samaritans and the Samaritans South Wales Valleys Project with an aim of reducing this risk. Samaritans are there for everyone and want to make sure their service is available to those who are struggling to cope, especially those groups who are considered high-risk.
From today, this partnership will ensure that when an individual is detained in custody they are offered a call to Samaritans from their cell. In addition to this, when an individual leaves custody, they will be provided with Samaritans contact details as well as being offered a call from Samaritans within 24 hours. Samaritans signs are also displayed in all of the cells at this custody suite.
Most significantly, Samaritans awareness training has been delivered to all custody sergeants who have cascaded the training to their colleagues in order to encourage a culture of help-seeking behaviour in detainees.
Assistant Chief Constable, Rhiannon Kirk, Gwent Police said: “Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Samaritans shows our commitment to reducing risk to people in police custody by ensuring they are offered support while being detained and after leaving custody.
“By working in partnership we can ensure help is available to those at risk from suicide and self-harm and ultimately save lives.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, is responsible for running and monitoring the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme in Gwent which involves specially trained volunteers making unannounced visits to police custody units to check on the welfare of detainees and the facilities in which they are held.
Welcoming the agreement, Mr Cuthbert said: “Ensuring the safety of detainees and the police officers and staff working in our custody units is paramount and this is why I am delighted to sign my commitment to the initiative with the Samaritans.”
“This partnership between us will add value to the significant investment we have already made in improving out custody suites in Gwent to prevent harm and create a modern environment for all. This includes the installation of CCTV and life-sign monitoring in all cells to monitor the movement and breathing of detainees.”
Carol Fradd, Branch Director for Newport Samaritans, said: “Newport branch are delighted to team up with Gwent Police on this promising new partnership. There is an increased risk of suicide for individuals being detained and after they have been discharged; we will be working together to help this high-risk group. At Samaritans we work hard to support everyone and we hope this partnership will instigate change”
Susan Francis, Project Officer for Samaritans South Wales Valleys Project said: “Following our successful partnership with South Wales Police in Merthyr Bridewell, I’m pleased that the Samaritans South Wales Valleys Project will be able to support Gwent Police. This partnership aims to reach those who are in most in need of emotional support in order to tackle suicide rates. I hope this will encourage wider partnerships”