The London riots have prevented mental health social workers carrying out planned assessments because police have been unavailable to help them.
Up to 60 mental health assessments may have been delayed, acccording to College of Social Work professional development adviser Claire Barcham.
Approved mental health professionals usually need to be accompanied by a police officer with a court warrant if they want to enter a home legally to carry out a planned assessment under the Mental Health Act 1983. Officers also help AMHPs manage risks.
However, in many cases police have been called away on riot duty or the courts have been too busy to issue a warrant.
“If we are having problems getting into court for our warrants, I would be concerned that may be happening to colleagues in children and families services and elsewhere,” said Barcham. “It shows how essential the police are to so many aspects of the harder end of social care.”
Steve Chamberlain, an AMHP spokesperson for the College of Social Work and a London-based practitioner, said police had told a number of mental health teams in the capital that they would be unable to attend assessments for at least two days.
“We understand the pressures they are under,” he said.
Many of the people who are waiting to be assessed are severely depressed or show signs of mental or psychotic illness and are likely to end up in hospital where they can be observed and treated, said Chamberlain.
“Generally there are concerns that if things aren’t dealt with rapidly there’s a risk of the person harming themselves through self-neglect, actively harming themselves or, in a small number of cases, harming others, though this is usually someone they know,” he said.
AMHP Gill Robinson said a specialist mental health police team that covers three London boroughs had cancelled one assessment that was due for tomorrow because they were busy on other jobs. She feared that three other assessments would also be postponed.
The local magistrates’ court warned her team not to apply for two warrants today because it was too busy dealing with riot-related cases.
She said that, if the riots and unrest continued, her team would have to risk-assess people or even phone 999 in the hope police could attend as an emergency.
“The police’s everyday business is having to be put to one side while their focus is pulled elsewhere,” she said.
“If necessary we will delay other things and keep a close eye on progress of the client. Potentially I will pull out other AMPS [from other jobs] and do a blitz when this all calms down.”
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