The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) welcome today’s announcement (Tuesday 12 July 2016) of the Government’s commitment to roll out liaison and diversion services in police custody suites and criminal courts across England. At a Care not Custody coalition event in Parliament this morning, Health Minister Alistair Burt MP announced a £12m investment in further roll out of liaison and diversion services. Subject to evaluation full roll out should be achieved by 2020.
Currently 50,000 people a year are assessed by liaison and diversion services following arrest, and almost 70% require mental health support. This vital new funding will extend NHS England liaison and diversion services from 50% population coverage to 75% by 2018.
This money will help people with mental ill health, learning disabilities or autism get the right care in the right place, supporting work between the police and the NHS.
Liaison and Diversion services can help ensure fair access to justice, limit the number of court hearings, and avoid costly adjournments and periods on remand. Where appropriate, vulnerable people can be diverted away from the criminal justice system into treatment and care.
The next two years will see the service expanded to cover all major urban areas, securing services in the areas of most need. This will build on the successful roll-out of services over the last two years which have to date identified and assessed over 71,000 vulnerable adults, children and young people.
Commenting, Janice Langley, NFWI Chair, said:
“The Care not Custody campaign has been very close to the hearts of many WI members. The government’s pledge to roll out of liaison and diversion services in police stations and courts is an important step towards keeping its care not custody promise, and builds on the positive commitments made in 2011 and 2014.”
Lord Bradley, Prison Reform Trust trustee and author of the 2009 independent review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, said:
“Today’s announcement will help ensure a fairer and more effective response to people with mental health needs and learning disabilities caught up in the justice system. The positive findings coming out of the liaison and diversion trial sites, many of which I have visited and supported over the years, means there is now a strong foundation for change. We’re seeing the alignment of health and criminal justice systems that is critical to break the cycle of offenders with mental health problems or learning disabilities moving in and out of the prison estate.”
Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Extending liaison and diversion services will help to ensure a fairer and better response to the many men, women and children with mental health needs and learning disabilities caught up in the justice system. Care Not Custody was inspired by the tragic death in prison of the son of a Norfolk WI member.
“Thanks to the determination of the WI, backed by a coalition of over two million health and justice professionals, Ministers have decided to do the right thing and divert vulnerable people away from prison wherever possible into the care and treatment they need.”
Mental Health Minister Alistair Burt said:
“We have made monumental strides in the way we think about and treat mental illness in this country in the last few decades – but people with a mental illness, learning disabilities or autism still need support when they come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“Expanding the successful Liaison and Diversion scheme will help make sure these factors are taken into account so more vulnerable people have their needs considered.”
Juliet Lyon (PRT): 07762 093 106
Mark Day (PRT): 07725 526 525
Lisa Plotkin (NFWI): 020 7371 9300
The latest available statistics on people with mental health needs and learning disabilities in the justice system reveal that:
- 26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody.
- 46% of women in prison and 21% of men have attempted suicide at some point in their lives compared to 6% of the general population.
- 20 – 30% of offenders have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope with the criminal justice system.
- 7% of prisoners have an IQ of less than 70 and a further 25% have an IQ between 70 and 79.
Care not Custody was inspired by the tragic death by suicide of a young man with schizophrenia in Manchester prison, the son of a WI member. Since then the Prison Reform Trust has worked in partnership with the NFWI to effect change.
Care not Custody has raised awareness of the significant numbers of people in prison with mental health needs; the gaps in provision of mental healthcare in prison and the community; the particular impact on women and young people; and the need for improved cooperation between the health and criminal justice sectors.
Building on Lord Bradley’s review published in 2009, NHS England has established a number of liaison and diversion trial sites to test and develop the most effective model, prior to making them available nationwide. Today’s announcement commits the government to investing £12million in extending liaison and diversion services across England, including all metropolitan areas, in the next two years as well as a thorough going evaluation which is likely to lead to full roll out of liaison and diversion services in police custody suites and the criminal courts across England, by 2020.
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP delivered a speech in July 2014 to outline how the government is ensuring that people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and other support needs caught up in the criminal justice system are identified and diverted into appropriate healthcare and support services. You can find her speech here.