About liaison and diversion

Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services identify people who have mental health, learning disability, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system as suspects, defendants or offenders.

The service can then support people through the early stages of criminal system pathway, refer them for appropriate health or social care or enable them to be diverted away from the criminal justice system into a more appropriate setting, if required.

L&D services aim to improve overall health outcomes for people and to support people in the reduction of re-offending. It also aims to identify vulnerabilities in people earlier on which reduces the likelihood that people will reach a crisis-point and helps to ensure the right support can be put in place from the start.

Watch this short video which explains how L&D services work

National standard L&D service specification

The national service specification was updated in September 2019. It outlines how services can provide a consistent and high quality approach across England. You can view the full service specification for more information. See the Resources page for other useful documents and guidance.

The main things that L&D services do for the people they see are identification, screening, assessment and referral to other services. These are explained below.

Identification: Criminal justice agencies working at the Police and Courts stages of the pathway are trained to recognise possible signs of vulnerability in people when they first meet them. They then alert their local L&D service about the person.

Screening: Once someone is identified as having a potential vulnerability, the L&D practitioner can go through screening questions to identify the need, level of risk and urgency presented. It also helps determine whether further assessment is required.

Assessment: Using a trauma-informed approach and approved screening and assessment tools an L&D practitioner will undertake a more detailed assessment of the person’s vulnerability. This provides more information on a person’s needs and also whether they should be referred on for treatment or further support.

Referral:  The L&D practitioner may refer someone to appropriate mainstream health and social care services or other relevant interventions and support services that can help. A person is also supported to attend their first appointment with any new services and the outcomes of referrals are recorded. L&D services will also provide a route to treatment for people whose offending behaviour is linked to their illness or vulnerability.

Outreach: Multi-disciplinary teams, including support time recovery workers and peer support workers, will work holistically with people in community settings during the currency of any criminal proceedings, including addressing issues such as housing and financial advice.

The police, probation and the judiciary make decisions based on the evidence and information presented to them. L&D services record all information about a person’s health needs and, with the person’s consent, share these with relevant agencies so they can make informed decisions about case management, sentencing and disposal options.

The roll-out of NHS England commissioned L&D services achieved 100% coverage across England in March 2020.

Q&A with Lord Bradley about the progress made with Liaison and Diversion services in England (2019)

View a video of Lord Bradley talking in 2014 about the origins and start of the L&D service work.