Scottish Liberal Democrats have today reported the Scottish Government to the Information Commissioner over its refusal to say how many new mental health staff the police will be given, after the First Minister couldn't explain why the national force had received just 7.5 extra staff, over two years after they were promised more.
Willie Rennie highlighted how Police Scotland were promised a share of 800 new staff under the 2017 mental health strategy - a commitment secured by the Scottish Liberal Democrats. However, statistics now show that 2 and a half years later Police Scotland only has 7.5 extra mental health workers.
The party has repeatedly asked how many extra staff Police Scotland will receive, through parliamentary questions and freedom of information requests. However, the Scottish Government has consistently refused to release this information.
After it was referred to the Information Commissioner, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie commented:
"The fact we have had to ask the Information Commissioner to provide basic scrutiny of this policy shows it is another skin deep commitment from the Scottish Government.
"There is no good reason for secrecy. If ministers had a robust plan for giving the police more mental health support they would tell us.
"Instead, we now know that two and a half years after they were promised help, the police have just 7.5 extra staff. The First Minister couldn't tell me why. She has taken her eye off the ball and this level of action won't begin to end the mental health crisis.
“Liberal Democrats want mental health to be taken just as seriously as physical health. We want to stop Brexit, stop independence and get on with building a brighter future. The time and money being spent on these would be much better spent on transforming our under-pressure mental health services."
Notes to editors:
Action 15 of the Mental Health Strategy states that the Scottish Government will:
The latest quarterly update on the Scottish Government’s allocation, showing just 7.5 extra staff have been given to the police in the last two and a half years, can be found here. It also shows 121 staff have already been attributed to ‘other settings’, meaning the police will miss out on at least some of the staff they were expecting.
This Parliamentary Question submitted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats showed that no information on mental health professionals allocated to ‘other settings’ could be provided:
2 September 2019 (Holding Reply Issued 29 August 2019)
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of the roles and settings included in the "other settings" category of the quarterly performance updates for action 15 of the mental health strategy.
Jeane Freeman: In respect of other settings and through the quarterly reporting templates agreed with Integration Authorities (IAs), we have specifically asked what recruitment is being undertaken, the roles involved and where exactly the workers will be based.
The level of detail received from the IAs in respect of this request has been varied. Some areas have provided specific detail on the roles of the workers to be recruited and where they will be based (for example support workers recruited through the third sector to work in a community hub providing an out of hours service).
However some areas have only provided a general statement around the initiatives they are looking to develop and how this will assist people in mental health crisis/distress. One of the reasons for this is because they are still in the planning stages for these (as with the key settings of the commitment) for years three and four of Action 15.
Policy officials however remain in constant dialogue with IAs on their recruitment plans under this commitment and a fourth quarterly update will be published in November 2019.