Delivered by Together in partnership with Barnet, Enfield & Haringey Mental Health Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust the scheme will reach more than 2.5 million people, covering 13 custody suites and seven courts in Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham, Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge and Havering.
The aim is to ensure that vulnerable individuals have access to qualified mental health practitioners at the earliest possible opportunity, so that they can be referred to appropriate support and their needs are accounted for in sentencing decisions.
This new pilot is one of 10 being rolled out nationwide following the Department of Health announcement earlier this year that further funding would be given to liaison and diversion services, to address the high level of mental health need amongst individuals in contact with the criminal justice system.
Liz Felton, CEO at Together said: “Over the last twenty years Together has helped to break the revolving door cycle for thousands of individuals with mental health needs. We are eager to utilise our experience to support NHS England to roll out this work more widely so that we can help even more Londoners experiencing health and social care inequalities to lead a life away from crime.
“We look forward to taking forward this partnership between voluntary and statutory agencies, facilitating access to effective mental health support whilst simultaneously tackling social care issues. In our experience it is this joined-up approach that really gets to the heart of, and addresses the factors underlying someone’s offending.”
Welcoming the new scheme, Chief Superintendent Chris Bourlet, Metropolitan Police Service lead for Liaison and Diversion, said: “Mental health teams working in police stations is a very positive initiative that will ensure the most appropriate care and support is given sooner to those in need.
“We know people coming into police custody are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and by working in partnership, we can make sure those people also get the most appropriate on-going support when they leave, by finding longer term solutions to health issues which may stop people coming back into police custody in the future.”
Dr Alison Frater, Head of Public Health and Health in the Justice System at NHS England in London, said: “People with mental health issues and other vulnerabilities who come into contact with the youth and adult justice systems often don’t get the support and treatment they need and even when they do, it doesn’t happen very quickly.
“This pilot will help ensure individuals can get the right help in a timely manner, so we can cut health inequalities, improve physical and mental health, reduce crime and re-offending, and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. “
Lord Victor Adebowale, Chair of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, who has recently published a report on liaison and diversion services, said: “The high rates of mental health issues amongst prisoners suggest that the prison service has become a catch-all social and mental healthcare service, as well as a breeding ground for poor mental health.
“I welcome the pilot, as research has shown that investing in diversion now will make huge financial savings in the long term, improving mental health and reducing reoffending.”
Maria Kane, CEO of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust, said: “We are delighted that north east London has been chosen to pilot this very worthy programme, which will benefit not only the people suspected of an offence, but the police and the justice system as well.”
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.