Support the health and wellbeing of officers and staff
The PCC pledged to put additional investment into health and wellbeing initiatives for Dorset Police personnel.
The pressures faced by emergency service personnel have been well publicised. In Dorset, the Force has experienced an increase in not only demand, but also complexity – with emerging threats such as cybercrime, child sexual exploitation and county lines drug gangs becoming more prevalent in recent years.
Of course, such challenges have occurred at a time of central government budget cuts. The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has described this as a perfect storm, in which the work required of Dorset Police is ever more challenging, but the resources available have shrunk. Indeed, police officer numbers in Dorset are at their lowest number since the 1980s.
Against this backdrop, it is sadly inevitable that the health and wellbeing of Force personnel will begin to suffer, and the Chief Constable has previously highlighted the increase of welfare referrals during this period of austerity.
In response to this, and the Chief Constable’s stated desire to improve the health and wellbeing of his workforce, the PCC made available a £250,000 health and wellbeing fund from his annual commissioning budget in order that extra steps could be provided to support those who are charged with protecting the public.
Over the past few months a wide range of initiatives focused on physical and mental wellbeing are being extended, introduced or otherwise piloted within Dorset. All these initiatives have been examined and scrutinised by the PCC to ensure that ideas are supported by evidence and represent good value for money.
Further, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has also delivered projects to improve gym equipment across the Force estate, as well as improve some outdoor areas.
The projects will be monitored to understand the extent to which they are making a difference – with one aim being a reduction on sickness absence across the Force. Pleasingly, some of the early signs are positive: with attendance data showing improvement in the year to date and staff reporting that they feel better supported by the organisation.
The desire is that this fund will lead to a healthier workforce and, in turn, that members of the public will experience a better quality of service, not least because more of officers and staff will be fit for work more often. The OPCC will continue to monitor the initiatives to ensure that those with demonstrable benefits are continued in the future.