Tom McNeil is Assistant Police & Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands.
Which part of the region do you work in?
My role encompasses the whole West Midlands region.
Which organisation/sector/network are you representing on the Mental Health Commission?
I’m the Assistant Police & Crime Commissioner to Simon Foster the West Midlands PCC.
How does your role relate to the mental health agenda?
The Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner is in a unique place to make direct investments into services and communities, influencing the way policing is done, embark on new partnerships and show civic and political leadership. Mental ill health, alongside other vulnerabilities such as poverty, abuse, substance misuse and other major life challenges, is a usually major factor behind someone committing crime. My view is that mental health support, at both the clinical and informal grassroots level, suffers from serious underinvestment. I believe that investment in holistic services that place wellbeing and mental health at the centre, whether in early years or criminal justice settings, could have a profound impact on improving the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Through proper recognition of the role of poor mental health, I believe there is an opportunity to radically reduce crime, unemployment and other negative life events.
I also believe in championing supportive environments that recognise the true extent of mental ill health, including within policing contexts. This can help us ensure people get the help they need rather than punishing people for being in crisis.
What are your particular areas of passion and interest, which you aim to champion through the work of the Commission?
I believe compassionate and long-lasting pastoral support in early years and school settings could be revolutionary for many of society’s problems. I’m therefore extremely passionate about championing brilliant examples of early help work, which seek to empower children and families to navigate problems with mental health and wider issues connected to poverty. I believe that increased investment and support for some of the great work already happening in the West Midlands, could have amazing benefits for people’s lives, including more productive, safer and happier communities.
What particular knowledge, skills & experience are you particularly seeking to ‘bring to the table’ to help to progress the work of the Commission?
As Assistant PCC I lead on a number of areas including criminal justice reform (such as reimaging how court processes work to better address the causes of crime), policing ethics and new ways of preventing crime through early intervention. There is not a conversation that goes by in relation to crime prevention, policing or the justice system where I do not emphasise the importance of providing more and better mental health care for vulnerable people caught in the system.
I also have a broad range of other experiences sitting on public sector and national Boards concerned with child poverty and social barriers, as well as frontline volunteering in policing, children’s services and community forums. Before my political posts, I was a lawyer specialising in advising not-for-profits, including a number of organisations involved in the provision of mental health care.