Too many people pass through the criminal justice system without their mental health needs being recognised. With more than 70 per cent of the prison population having some kind of mental health problem, it’s crucial that specialist services exist to ensure that people get the care and support they need to break the cycle of offending.
Since 1993, Together’s Criminal Justice Services have successfully broken this cycle for thousands of offenders. The people that benefit from our services have backgrounds and circumstances that are highly complex and characterised by multiple disadvantage. They may have experienced all or some of the following:
- Mental distress
- Substance misuse
- Poverty and debt
- Learning disability
- Domestic violence and abuse
- Speech and language problems
Women and people from BAME backgrounds may also require a carefully tailored approach to take account of their particular needs. 68% of the people supported within our Liaison and Diversion services are from BAME communities and 23% are women. This is in both cases a higher proportion than would generally be found within the criminal justice system.
“I am rebuilding my life. I have taken part in a parenting course to rebuild my relationship with my children, received specialist debt advice and avoided eviction from my home. I am immensely grateful for the support.” Together service user
Together takes a collaborative learning approach to working within the criminal justice, health and social care systems. We share our expertise to bring about change with people in mental distress, with the services supporting them and with the systems surrounding them.
Our approach is underpinned by the following principles:
- We embrace vulnerability as a starting point for recovery, growth and change.
- We focus on building people’s own resilience and resources. We see the whole person rather than a collection of discrete problems to solve.
- We have a thorough knowledge of how to apply clinical and psychological practice within Criminal Justice settings.
- We are continually adapting to our changing environment. Learning from the people who need our services is at the heart of everything we do.
- We build effective partnerships that will stand the test of time. For us, partnerships must change lives for the better.
- We give people choices when choice seems impossible.
Our work has been highlighted as a good practice example in the Bradley Report (2009) and Reforming Women’s Justice (2011) and our services have won or been shortlisted for a number of awards including the Howard League’s Community Programme Awards. We are a member of various influential forums including the Bradley Report Group and the Care not Custody Coalition. Together has also been supporting the work of the national Liaison and Diversion Programme led by NHS England – we are a lead delivery partner in two of the national trial sites in London and supporting a third site in South Yorkshire.
We continually seek ways to monitor and improve our practice and service design, and a number of independent studies have explored the impact of our work. A team of data analysts supports our criminal justice team to use and interpret information from our services so as to adapt and improve our approaches. In addition, a panel of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system gives feedback and advice to the team, using their own experiences to inform future practice and project delivery.
We provide specialist training to professionals working in criminal justice healthcare settings, to enable them to better support individuals with a variety of vulnerabilities. Our expertise includes training around mental health awareness, dual diagnosis, personality disorder and how to support vulnerable groups such as women who are engaged with criminal justice services. This has led to the development of two ‘common sense’ guides (see links at the top right of this page), which are designed to be used to support the development of further training.
Our areas of work:
We work alongside police, emergency and community services to provide support to individuals at the earliest possible opportunity.
We identify and work with people of all ages passing through the criminal justice system who have mental health needs and other vulnerabilities to support their access to appropriate services in the community.
We work to support service users under the supervision of the National Probation Service to ensure that their needs are identified and managed as part of their license or community order.
Our work with women
Women who come into contact with the criminal justice system may often have experienced issues such as trauma, domestic abuse, trafficking and sex working. Nearly half of women in prison have suffered domestic abuse, and over half have experienced childhood abuse. A woman’s offending is usually a sign that these issues have not been identified, and that her needs relating to these experiences have gone unmet. We look at all the circumstances and vulnerabilities a woman may be experiencing and work to understand what the underlying causes are that have brought her into contact with the criminal justice system. We then take a collaborative approach, working alongside the woman and local organisations that can support her in tackling the difficult things in her life.
A particular area of focus for women is housing, and Together has formed a partnership with St. Mungos, funded by NHS England, to provide five dedicated placements in good-quality supported accommodation in Hackney. This is just one of several pilots of different housing pathways in Together’s services for women.
In 2013, Together published a guide offering professionals working within the criminal justice system the tools to recognise and respond to the health and wellbeing needs of women.
Our partnership working
Our criminal justice services are delivered through both formal and informal arrangements with partners, including NHS Trusts, the National Probation Service, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service, police forces across the country and a range of other voluntary sector organisations.
In October 2014, Professor Paul Senior, Director of the Hallam Centre for Community Justice at Sheffield Hallam University undertook an analysis of the long standing relationship between probation in London and Together for Mental Wellbeing. The research identified five critical success factors to the partnership that would effectively support the building of new and different relationships with partners in the future.
“Our partnership with Together plays a vital role in ensuring that people with mental health problems are directed to treatment and support rather than prison. We provide assessment, diagnosis, treatment and psychological interventions to clients whose mental ill health has led to them breaking the law and coming into contact with the criminal justice service. This is complemented by Together’s work to provide first-level mental health assessments and direct clients to a range of practical and social support. This joint approach supports people by involving them in the world around them, taking control of what happens to them and helping them to develop resilience to the knocks, shocks and demands of everyday life.” Dr Paul Gilluley, Head of Service for Forensic Services at East London NHS Foundation Trust
Our criminal justice services are commissioned and funded by a variety of organisations, including:
- NHS England
- National Offender Management Service
- The Bromley Trust
- LankellyChase Foundation
- The Barrow Cadbury Trust
For general enquiries about our criminal justice services, please call us on 020 7780 7394 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in commissioning us to deliver a service in your area, or in partnering with us, please contact Linda Bryant, Director of Criminal Justice Services, on 020 7780 7300.