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Police Superintendents research reveals the ‘human cost’ of austerity

As part of World Mental Health Day, the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) shared the results of a survey into the resilience of its members – revealing concerning statistics about the mental health and wellbeing of policing’s senior leaders.

Earlier this year, over 800 of the PSA’s members took part in a survey to provide honest feedback on their working conditions, levels of responsibility, workload and personal mental health.

The results show that:

  • On average, Superintendents work 53 hours per week (almost 50% more than the average UK working week*)
  • 73% said their workload had increased over the last year
  • Only 14% felt that the impact of their workload was considered
  • 63% felt stress, low mood, anxiety, or mental health difficulties
    The PSA survey has been carried out regularly since 2009 and recent figures show a consistent picture of the negative impact working conditions are having on the wellbeing of the workforce. In 2016, 50% were showing signs of anxiety and 27% were reporting signs of depression.
An infographic showing the key findings from this year’s survey can be viewed here.

Since 2010, the number of Superintendents has been cut by 25%, more than any other rank.

This year’s survey also revealed that 92% of those reporting mental health concerns said that these issues had been caused or made worse by work. This is against a UK workforce average of just 26% who attribute poor mental health to the workplace.

President of the PSA, Paul Griffiths said, “Yet again our survey shows a decline in wellbeing and the human cost of austerity measures which we can’t ignore.

“Our ranks are not unique in this picture. We are seeing the mental strain of today’s policing having its toll across the Service. We know that 1 in 5 police officers experience some form of PTSD and that nationally, we need to implement our mental health strategy in policing to respond to this worrying trend – something we strongly support.

“It cannot be right that the Service our members are so proud to be part of – indeed 91% tell us that they are proud to be in policing – is also what is causing the decline of their own mental wellbeing.

“Responding to this issue will not be simple, but now is the time to introduce changes that will make a huge difference to the people who keep our communities safe.”

In response to these statistics, the PSA has encouraged all Chief Constables to provide health screening checks for its members and played an instrumental role in the development of the National Police Wellbeing Service. In addition, consultations have been carried out into the working hours of superintendents, which reveal that they routinely breach Working Time Regulations to meet the demands of their role. Further consultation on this matter is underway.

Paul confirmed, “We have brought the evidence of our working hours to the NPCC and to the Home Secretary and we have been repeatedly told that this issue will be addressed.

“We need to reach a point where ‘resilience’ can become a term used to describe a characteristic we need in extremes, not how our workforce copes with the reality of daily policing.”