Mental health staff working with police and courts now cover half of England

Half of the country is now covered by a new service to make sure people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities or other vulnerabilities such as debt or homelessness are supported in police custody and the courts.

Sixteen new ‘Liaison and Diversion’ (L&D) teams are now up and running, bringing the total to 26 schemes nationwide and covering 28.5 million people or half of the country.

The first wave of 10 schemes, which see specialist mental health workers working alongside police officers, were launched in April last year.  In the first 12 months the services have helped 16,315 adult cases and 2,450 children and young people’s cases access specialist support when in contact with the criminal justice system.

Kate Davies OBE, Head of Health & Justice, Armed Forces and Public Health at NHS England said: “This expansion is a big milestone for Liaison and Diversion services because we are now reaching out to so many people.

“The results from the first wave of 10 show just how in demand these services really are and the results so far have proven how it can dramatically change people’s lives.

“When you suffer from a mental health condition for example and have no support, custody can be a very lonely place; by putting additional support and mental health expertise alongside the police and court workforce we have turned a corner in service provision for vulnerable individuals.”

By identifying someone brought into a police station or involved in court proceedings who may have a mental health problem or other vulnerabilities, L&D schemes can ensure an individual’s vulnerability is addressed and supported through the criminal justice system.

A detailed assessment of their needs will take place by the L&D team resulting in a referral to support or treatment services such as local authority alcohol support services, drug services and support, anger management support services or referral for children safeguarding among many others.

L&D schemes understand their local population so they are able to provide access to a variety of care services to those who need it most. Some schemes are working in partnership with third sector organisations who provide expert knowledge in areas of need including debt, housing and veteran support such as St Mungo’s, Richmond Fellowship, Mind and Julien Support.

They can also help the police and courts do their jobs by: providing up-to-date information on a person’s state of mind; benefit the individual’s health; contribute to a reduction in re-offending; and reduce the likelihood that the individual will reach crisis-point.

Sue Tighe, Network Director for Specialist Services at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are really pleased to be part of this scheme. For people who are experiencing mental health problems or other vulnerabilities such as issues with substance misuse or learning disabilities, finding themselves in the judicial system can be daunting and cause significant distress. Having members of our teams placed in police stations and courts provides people with access to immediate support to suit their needs.”

This is a two year trial and the model will be independently evaluated to inform a business case for services to cover all of the English population by 2017/18.