‘We’re Expected To Do So Much More With So Much Less’

A lack of resources and funding, as well as overwork, is fuelling a wellbeing crisis in policing, South Yorkshire Police Federation has said.

Oscar Kilo is hosting a Wellbeing At Work conference on Wednesday 6 March and South Yorkshire Police officers can attend it on Teams. It runs from 9am to 4pm and will hear from experts on subjects including anxiety, stress and poor sleep.

South Yorkshire Police Federation Chair Steve Kent said that more had to be done about police officers’ wellbeing, but that it needed to be proactive rather than reactive.

He said: “South Yorkshire Police is quite good at putting things in place as a reaction to officers being overworked and stressed.

“The Federation has its own counsellors, we’ve got online counsellors in the Group Insurance, and the force has got its own in-person and online counsellors as well. So we can cover most of these angles, but my argument has always been that we need to stop breaking officers in the first place, rather than concentrating on repairing them.

“I think that comes down to the resources that we’ve got and the performance pressure that we’re under. HMIC and politicians come out with unrealistic performance expectations which then puts pressure on our officers, all the way down to the PCs working on the streets or the detectives working on the cases.

“We’re expected to do so much more, with so much less. South Yorkshire Police is still 300 to 400 officers down on where it was prior to 2010, so we’re still running at the red line. We need to cut the bureaucracy. The real way to deal with officer wellbeing is for forces to get proper funding so that pressure is relieved on our frontline.”

This was also linked to officers working excessive hours, Steve said. He said: “We’ve got to have a mindset change. We all know the nature of the job is such that officers can sometimes work long days when there’s a major incident, or if they’re dealing with a court file. We get it. But it shouldn’t be the norm, it should be the exception.”

That balance isn’t being struck in South Yorkshire Police at the moment, Steve said, adding that teams were also under-resourced when student officers were at university.

He added: “Officers are struggling to get leave because of resourcing, and that is a problem. We are still an understaffed force, and we need to look at how we’re going to address this.

“Understandably, because police wages are so poor, some people do rely on overtime every month to improve their lifestyle or pay for the bills. But we can’t rely on that, because if things change, the officers aren’t going to be getting that income. There has to be a balance, otherwise it’s to the detriment of their personal lives. Officers working 60 or 70 hours a week is not healthy and not sustainable.”