Councils to bid for £15m funding for safe spaces

The Department of Health (DoH) has announced a new £15 million fund will be made available for councils to bid for, to provide safe accommodation for people suffering mental health crises in public spaces.

The DoH has said the new funding will be made available to build new safe spaces and improve existing ones.

Currently, the police are regularly forced to place vulnerable people in prison cells overnight due to a lack of local authority-run safe places. According to figures released in January by the Metropolitan Police, over 3,000 under-18s were held in cells overnight in London alone.

Government figures have shown that there was a 32 per cent reduction in the use of police cells between April 2013 and March 2015.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt commented: “Mental illness is not a crime - we want to end the scandal of people in crisis being unnecessarily locked up in a police cell. This funding will mean local areas can invest in creating safe places so people get the best support.”

Home secretary Theresa May said: “This funding will ensure there are alternatives to police cells available right around the country because nobody wins when the police are sent to look after people experiencing a mental health crisis – vulnerable people don’t get the care they need and deserve, and the police can’t get on with the job they are trained to do.”

A letter from both Hunt and May has been sent to councils inviting them to bid for the funding, with bidding set to remain open until the end of May.

The force areas where groups will be invited to bid for funding in the first instance are: Avon and Somerset, Cleveland, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Sussex and West Yorkshire.