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Together selected by Department of Health as a partner to roll out liaison and diversion services

Posted on 04, January 2014

Together has been chosen by the Department of Health to be one of its key partner organisations to lead an initiative that will see mental health professionals working directly within courts and police custody suites.

The Department of Health today announced £25 million of funding to develop and roll out services including liaison and diversion projects similar to those already run by Together at nine courts across London. The aim of the initiative is to ensure that people can get the most appropriate support as early as possible, and that their mental health needs are taken into account as part of criminal justice procedures, including at sentencing.

Together, working in partnership with Barnet, Enfield & Haringey Mental HealthTrust, East London NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust, will lead a trial project at three magistrates courts and a number of police stations across North and East London.

The London trial site will be run by Together and the three NHS Trusts as part of the National Diversion Programme. Specialist mental health practitioners will assess the needs of vulnerable individuals of all ages in both court and police custody settings, and community support workers will help them to engage with relevant local services. There will be a particular focus on reaching women, BME groups, and children and young people (including those transitioning to adulthood and involved in gangs).

Together’s practitioners will provide information and advice to police officers as well as reports and recommendations to magistrates to help inform sentencing decision.  They will work in partnership with the local NHS Trusts to ensure that offenders have access to secondary care services following assessment, and are supported to engage with appropriate community mental health support. In addition, mental health awareness training will be provided to probation and other frontline criminal justice staff.

The ten trial sites will be independently evaluated for a period of a year, with a view to extending the initiative to the rest of the country by 2017.

Linda Bryant, Head of Criminal Justice Services at Together said: “We welcome this significant investment in shaping and rolling out the provision of effective liaison and diversion services, which are vital to reducing offending. For over 20 years, we have seen thousands of people taking steps to move away from crime as a result of effective liaison and diversion delivered by Together in courts across London. It is encouraging to see the government recognise now that provision urgently needs to be rolled out across the country.

Complex mental health and social care issues are at the root of the vast majority of offending, but this has largely been overlooked by the criminal justice system. From our experience, it is only when these needs are identified and responded to at the earliest possible stage, and when appropriate alternatives to custody are found, that people can finally break out of the cycle of offending.

By directly tackling the mental health issues at the root of someone’s offending, and building strong partnerships with agencies to address other needs such as homelessness and unemployment at the same time, we can support people at every point on their journey to a life away from crime. We look forward to working with our delivery partners, the Department of Health and NHS England over the next year as part of this initiative to make liaison and diversion an integral part of the criminal justice system.”

Together is the largest single provider of liaison and diversion services in London, having developed and expanded provision over the past 20 years in partnership with London Probation Trust and a range of NHS Trusts. Together currently operates 19 projects including in nine Magistrates Courts.