This report is due to be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at a meeting scheduled to take place on 30th July 2020. There is the possibility that the Committee will agree changes to the recommendations. The Committee’s conclusions in respect of this matter will be reported to the Executive Committee.
The Chair of the Suicide Prevention Task Group, Councillor Debbie Chance, presented the group’s final report. Members were advised that this had been a sensitive and complex issue to review and Councillor Chance thanked the other five members of the group for their assistance with the investigation.
There had been a slight delay in terms of the presentation of the group’s findings to the Overview and Scrutiny and Executive Committees due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the review the group had held 11 meetings and spoken to eight witnesses, both Council Officers and external partners, between June 2019 and June 2020.
The group had learned a lot about the impact that deaths by suicide could have on people’s friends and families. Members had discovered that bereaved relatives who had lost a loved one to suicide were at higher risk of death by suicide. A concerning finding had been that many of the deaths were amongst persons not previously known to mental health services, or who had not confided in anyone that they were struggling.
Members had been advised that on average one person died each week as a result of suicide in Worcestershire. In Redditch, for the three-year period from 2015 to 2017, there were 26 deaths by suicide of which 84% were among men.
The investigation had primarily focused on services that were not provided by Redditch Borough Council. Members had reviewed the content of the Worcestershire Suicide Prevention Plan and had been greatly assisted by the county’s Public Health team.
The group’s recommendations focused mainly on the Council’s influencing role. Key objectives of the review had been to review suicide in general and the mental health services available to Redditch residents. This had taken into account services provided by both public sector organisations and the valuable contribution of Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations.
The witnesses interviewed by the group had highlighted the need for awareness raising and training and this was reflected in the recommendations. The group were also guided by the Equalities Team to look at how the Council’s Equalities Strategy could be updated to include actions that supported suicide prevention. The other recommendations covered the assistance that could be provided to VCS groups to enable those bodies to better publicise their services and generally promoting awareness around suicide prevention.
Following the presentation of the report Members discussed the group’s findings and recommendations. Members noted that the report had been dedicated to Mr Mike Lewington, who had been interviewed during the review and had sadly passed away since then. Members also noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had endorsed the group’s recommendations unanimously.
Reference was made to the suicides that had occurred in Redditch in recent years, particularly at Musketts Bridge and Members noted that messages of hope that had been secured to the bridge had subsequently been removed. Borough and County Councillors had been working hard in recent years to support people experiencing mental health difficulties and the group’s findings would help to inform elected Members about action that could be taken to prevent suicide moving forward.
During consideration of this item Councillor Mike Rouse proposed an additional recommendation. This additional recommendation was seconded by Councillor Matthew Dormer. The additional recommendation proposed the following:
In proposing this recommendation Councillor Rouse commented that it was important for the Worcestershire Suicide Prevention Plan Group and the Worcestershire Health and Wellbeing Board to learn about the group’s findings. This could be achieved by sending a copy of the report to relevant Members and Officers at Worcestershire County Council. In addition, the local Member of Parliament would find the information useful.
There was general consensus amongst Members that this additional recommendation would be helpful.
1) that the Redditch Borough Council Equalities Strategy should reflect the Council’s commitment to suicide prevention and supporting good mental health, and that in producing the updated version of the Equalities Strategy for 2020 to 2024 objectives and actions should be included to cover the following:
a) that officers continue to publicise messages around positive mental health to staff and promote opportunities to participate in training and events;
b) that officers develop the signposting information available on the intranet to support staff in being able to signpost either service users or colleagues to the relevant support services;
c) that officers mark suicide prevention awareness day in September 2020 including using this as an opportunity to promote the work of local groups that support suicide prevention;
d) recognising that not all staff may undertake the Mental Health First Aid training, that officers arrange for some alternative web based training resources to be provided for staff, to be aimed at those working in front line posts;
2) that officers from the Communications Team work with the Partnership Manager to identify local voluntary sector organisation which offer support around mental health and wellbeing and/ or promote suicide prevention;
3) that the organisations identified be invited to participate in workshop training sessions to be provided by the Communications Team to help them to better publicise the support and services their organisations provide through use of social media and other publicity;
4) that officers be tasked with publicising the outcome of the Task Group in the Wellbeing in Partnership Newsletter and by giving details of the findings to the Worcestershire Suicide Prevention Plan Partnership Group (sub-group of the Health and Well-being Board); and
5) Officers be tasked with sending a copy of the Suicide Prevention Task Group’s final report to Worcestershire County Council and the Member of Parliament for Redditch.