Too many people pass through the criminal justice system without their mental health needs being recognised. When more than 70 per cent of the prison population have mental health issues, the majority of whom don’t receive the appropriate care and support, the cycle of reoffending becomes almost inevitable.
Since 1993, Together’s Forensic Mental Health Practitioner (FMHP) Service has successfully broken this cycle for hundreds of offenders. We do this through a pro-active, independent service that identifies people in contact with the criminal justice system who have mental health needs:
- We work closely with court and probation services across London, cutting the number of custody remands and prison sentences for vulnerable offenders by diversion towards more effective community management of their mental health and social care needs.
- We aim to reduce re-offending rates by ensuring people get the support they need after being released from prison or while serving a community sentence.
- We provide mental health awareness training and case consultation to people working within the criminal justice system to equip them to deal better with issues relating to mental health.
“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
A best practice approach to mental health care in criminal justice
The work of our Forensic Mental Health Practitioners is highly respected within the criminal justice system and our approach has been influential in altering the way criminal justice agencies work with vulnerable defendants and offenders. Operating 18 projects across 14 London boroughs, our practitioners aim to:
- improve the identification and assessment of offenders with mental health and other complex needs.
- ensure access to the full range of community justice, health and social care services as an alternative, where possible, to remand and custodial sentences.
- improve and enhance the multi-agency approach to reduce crime and improve mental wellbeing.
Our work has been highlighted as a good practice example in the Bradley Report in 2009 and Reforming Women’s Justice (PDF) in 2011. Together is also a member of the National Advisory Group, which supports the implementation of the national delivery plan of the Health and Criminal Justice Programme Board.
Court liaison services
Their presence has been an invaluable source of support to the Court in dealing with mentally disordered offenders, both in custody and on bail.” District judge
Our Forensic Mental Health Practitioners provide an assessment, liaison and referral-on service for defendants and offenders with mental health and other social care needs at a number of Magistrates’ Courts across London.
They also give sentencers specialist advice about alternatives to custody for defendants who have mental health needs and provide mental health awareness training to criminal justice agencies.
The FMHP Service provides direct support to vulnerable offenders who have been sentenced to a community order. The service also supports London probation staff in their management of offenders with mental health needs. This might include an assessment of health and social care needs, including at pre-sentence report stage, and targeted short-term therapeutic interventions in response to gaps in local service provision.
Women in the criminal justice system
Women offenders have more significant offending-related unmet needs compared to male offenders, including health, emotional wellbeing, housing, training and employment needs. Our Women Court Liaison and Outreach Project provides an FMHP practitioner service to women appearing Thames Magistrates’ Court, Westminster Magistrates’ Court and Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court.
The service supports women offenders to access and engage with services in the community, as an alternative to custody, to improve their health, address their social care needs and reduce the risk of re-offending. The service was shortlisted for a Howard League Community Programme Award (2011). It is run in partnership with local NHS Mental Health Trusts and St Mungo’s.
Since her work with the Together practitioner, Miss B has successfully engaged in two psychological interventions, is currently engaging in 1:1 talk therapy and is waiting for a place for bereavement counselling. She is full of hope for the future and is a very different woman from the one I met a year ago.” Offender manager, London Probation Trust
The service is commissioned and supported by agencies including London Probation Trust, local authorities, Primary Care Trusts, The Department of Health and the Pilgrim Trust. We are also grateful to the support of the Bromley Trust, the JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales.
Find out more
If you would like to find out more about the Forensic Mental Health Practitioner Service, and how a service like this could operate in your area, please contact: