HUNDREDS of people were detained under the Mental Health Act by Gwent Police last year – including 18 children.

Police officers say under-funding of mental health services across England and Wales means more of their time and resources are being spent on helping people in the grip of mental health crises.

Home Office figures show Gwent Police detained 278 people under section 136 of the Mental Health Act in the 12 months to March, 18 of whom were aged under 18. This was up 17 per cent on the previous 12 months, when 237 people were detained.


The Act gives police the power to take people to a place of safety for up to 72 hours if they appear to be suffering from mental health problems and need immediate care, or if they are a risk to themselves or others.

The number of detentions under the act across England and Wales as a whole over the same period was up 12 per cent, with 33,238 cases recorded – 3,576 more than in 2017-18.

Gwent Police chief constable Pam Kelly said: “In Gwent, our specialist mental health support and advice service within our Force Control Room has without doubt contributed to the reduction in Section 136 detentions, with less need to execute our powers on people in acute crisis and better access to appropriate health and social care provision through liaison with the relevant services.

“The support has helped reduce demand on Gwent Police by, sometimes averting officers from needing to attend scenes during a mental health crisis or by reducing the amount of time officers need to spend once deployed by offering access to mental health services.”

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at mental health charity Mind, said the figures backed up their recent findings that access to mental health services was declining.

She said: "This is stark evidence that something is wrong with our mental health system.

"The NHS and government need to prioritise mental health and deliver on the promises made in recent years.

"Detentions under the Act will only start reducing once people have access to high quality, culturally relevant and timely mental health care at the point they need it.”

Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert said: “The specialist support the mental health staff offer people in crisis is invaluable and is saving lives.

“It helps to ensure that detentions are only used in an emergency, when people are unable to be supported and would be a risk to themselves or the public.

“There is still more work to be done with our partners in health and local authorities, however, we are leading the way in Gwent and I look forward to working with Welsh Government to share our successes and help to develop services to meet the needs of communities across Wales.”

In Gwent, the majority of those whose gender was recorded were men – 63 per cent.


John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the figures did not come as a surprise.

He said: "It cannot be right that officers are again scooping up where other agencies are unable to provide – through no fault of their own – services that are so obviously needed.

"This vulnerable section of our community need to be afforded the proper care and attention that welfare services should be providing. They are patients not prisoners."

The figures also show Gwent Police used police vehicles to transport mental health detainees 245 times in 2018-19. The most common recorded reason for doing so was because the person's behaviour was thought to pose a risk.

An ambulance was unable to attend within 30 minutes on 69 occasions.