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Making officers healthier and happier will help protect the public, says chief

Force is set to introduce extra leave for personnel, and head is also determined to help officers' finances as much as he can
Published - 03/07/2017 By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle

Extra days off are set to be introduced at a force in order to keep officers and staff healthy and motivated.

Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly says he is putting wellbeing at the front and centre of his agenda – and may even look to tackle pension issues.

In an interview with PoliceOracle.com, he said: “I have two organisational goals I want to achieve: one is around the quality of service I deliver to the public of Lincolnshire, and the other is around wellbeing. I feel that if I have a healthy, a happy and a well organisation, then that supports the first goal.”

The chief, who started in his role in February, has immediately set out a number of ideas which he feels could help this – including extra days of paid leave.

“I’ve said if you’re involved in a Police Sport UK activity you can have up to three days paid leave per year.

“I know the data will tell me individuals who take that up are less likely to be sick so it’s a zero-sum for me.”

He added: “This isn’t just about those who are going to want to be active anyway – it’s my intention that every member of staff will have access to two days paid leave per year to be involved in some kind of [non-sporting] activity [as well].

"I’m open-minded about what that could be." He gave examples of charity or youth work, adding: "The idea is that it’s being more active than you would otherwise be."

The former HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland added that while the financial situation means that he cannot bring more officers into the force at present, he is determined to support those who serve as much as he possibly can.

The 27-year-service officer, a keen police volleyball player, is also looking at having a non-mandatory higher standard for the police fitness test for Lincolnshire Police, better access to gym facilities and adopting a goal of trying to make his force the “healthiest in the country”.

A new “wellbeing coordinator” has just been appointed in order to help the chief’s ideas become reality.

“People who join Lincolnshire Police are here for a long time, if you’re a new starter you could be here for 40 years,” he said, explaining part of why he feels it is so important to boost health and happiness.

PoliceOracle.com put it to him that it is often said policing is no longer a job for life, and therefore not something new recruits will be doing for four decades.

CC Skelly replied that the things which inspired him to become an officer – a sense of fairness, justice and duty – are the same as why people join today, and those traits do not disappear throughout peoples' careers.

“Why is it we’re talking across the service a language that suggests people may come and go? I suggest that’s because it’s difficult to contemplate in the current employment market the incentives which will allow people to stay for that duration.

“I personally think much of that is motivated by pensions, and if I’m wrong I’m happy to be corrected, but if it’s not a main driver it is certainly one of the drivers.”

He recounted being told about concerns people have about their financial security around their incomings and outgoings, and also police pension schemes changing after they have been signed-up to.

“I think there’s a real risk to us as a service that we start locking in or locking out people from a career because of the financial arrangements, in particular because of the pension arrangements.

“That’s something I’m keen to explore with financial colleagues, to say - if we start were to start with a blank piece of paper and have some innovative thinking how could we support people? I do see it as part of the wellbeing agenda.”

When it was put to him that he is heavily constrained in this area, he replied: “I’ve been told that a couple of times, but you need to tell me that more often before I believe you. There are very strict rules and many complexities to that, but there is still a question in my mind that says – what are the alternatives? What can be explored?

“If it is of benefit to the public because I have a happy workforce, a workforce that feels valued, that is of benefit to me.

"What are the costs involved? For that I need actuaries, pension advisers, lawyers. But I think accepting a straightforward ‘no’ at this point is not doing my employees any good, and I think I need to be a bit more intrusive around that.

“If the answer is legislation and regulation has got you tied, well, then I go to government and say here’s where you can perhaps help.”

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