cell doorFifteen NHS trusts and partnership organisations will share £6.1 million of government funding to improve provision of places of safety for people in mental health crisis.

The funding, from the Department of Health, will support the creation of new places of safety and the refurbishment of existing sites, to prevent people experiencing a mental health crisis, who have committed no crime, from being placed in a police cell.

The government wants to end the situation in which hundreds of people in crisis are being locked up in police cells each year because health services are not available in time – somewhere which often exacerbates the crisis.

These awards are for the first wave of bids, which cover 11 police force areas. They have been focused where use of police cells as a place of safety has previously been among the highest in the country. This is part of a £15 million fund the government has set up to improve place of safety provision.

In 2015, Prime Minister Theresa May – then Home Secretary – outlined plans to end the use of police cells as a place of safety. The number of people placed in police cells as a place of safety has halved in recent years, although the use of cells varies across the country. In 2013/14, 6,000 people were detained in a police cell during a crisis.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis they need the right care, in the right place and at the right time. We are fully committed to improving mental health services across the country and these projects will help support people at a crucial time.”

The list of successful first wave bids include Avon and Somerset, Cleveland, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Sussex, West Yorkshire, and Wiltshire police force areas. Projects include new section 136 suites, crisis cafés, triage vehicles and places of safety for children and young people.

In addition, the government has also opened the bidding process for the remaining £8.9 million of funding to the rest of England. Through local Crisis Care Concordat groups, organisations including mental health trusts, clinical commissioning groups, police forces, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector can bid for the funding.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd added: “We have seen good progress on our manifesto commitment to reduce the use of cells, with numbers dropping by 32% across England and Wales in just one year. But there is still more to do, and [these projects] will provide vital facilities for those in crisis to ensure they get the compassionate care and support they need.

“The police should never be the default response for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

“And we are going further, bringing important changes to legislation through the Policing and Crime Bill to ensure that police cells are only used as a place of safety for adults in exceptional circumstances, and will ban their use altogether for under 18s.”