Tuesday, March 10, 2015

British cops lock up the ill elderly

Vulnerable pensioners are being locked in police cells when care home staff cannot cope with them. A shocking official report reveals that a 90-year-old dementia sufferer was put in custody after he rowed with his carers and they dialled 999.

In another desperate case, a 75-year-old with multiple health problems was detained even against the advice of his doctor.

The examples were uncovered by watchdogs investigating police treatment of the elderly, the mentally ill and children.

They found that frontline officers frequently took emergency calls from staff at hospitals and care homes. And police often ended up dealing with the troubled pensioners because social service and NHS staff were not available.

Dru Sharpling of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which drew up the report, said custody was becoming a default option. ‘The public would be surprised to learn that police cells are often full of vulnerable adults and children, rather than suspects accused of serious crimes,’ she said.

‘I am particularly concerned to find that on occasions when officers were left with no other option, they resorted to detaining vulnerable people in police custody in order to get them the support they needed.

‘Each public service must fully discharge its responsibilities to ensure that police custody does not become the default option for vulnerable people in need of care.’

Home Secretary Theresa May called in the police watchdog last year amid concerns over the use of police custody.

The Inspectorate’s officials studied five police forces across England and Wales, as well as in three London boroughs, and found that elderly people were being detained because there was nowhere else for them to go.

The 90-year-old dementia patient was arrested after being violent toward staff and damaging property.

He spent the night in a police cell after refusing to leave the home voluntarily. Officers found him a hospital bed the following day and took him there by squad car.

Overall, the report concluded that taking elderly people, children and the mentally ill into police custody was the wrong approach in many cases. Officials said it had a ‘detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing’.

Experts praised the compassion of officers but pointed that police were largely trained to deal with criminals.

There were also questions over whether a lack of investment in care staff training and the increasing use of agency workers had led to increased pressure on police.

Caroline Abrahams, of the charity Age UK, said: ‘If all the services supporting older people with health and care issues like dementia were working effectively, it would be very unlikely that these kind of crisis points would be reached.

‘The report shows examples of health and care services failing to accept their statutory responsibilities and failing to co-operate effectively.’

George McNamara of the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘It is deeply worrying that the police are becoming an arm of social services.’

And Dave Tucker of the College of Policing said officers were too often the first resort. ‘The decision to arrest a vulnerable person is often taken reluctantly by police officers,’ he added.

‘The report highlights examples where officers feel they are often left with no option but to take people into police custody as a place of safety because there is no alternative health care provision, this includes young people and the elderly.

‘A police cell is not an appropriate place for someone suffering a mental health crisis of any age, and certainly not a vulnerable person who hasn’t committed a crime.’

Last year the Daily Mail revealed that police are routinely being called to restrain dementia patients in care homes because poorly trained staff cannot cope.

Original report here

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