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£12million to fund major expansion of services so more people who are arrested get a mental health assessment

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An additional £12million will be spent over the next two years to expand services that make mental health assessments available for people when they are first arrested.

The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) welcomed the 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, Health Minister Alistair Burt MP announced a £12million 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.

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.

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.


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