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Together to lead even more sites for liaison and diversion pilot as NHS England announces expansion of initiative

Posted on 02, December 2014

Together has been chosen by NHS England as a key partner to lead the second phase of its initiative to roll out liaison and diversion services in London. Building on the work we have been doing since April 2014 to lead the delivery of this crucial service in North and East London, we will now be working with new partners to expand the trial to West, North West and Central London.

In January, the Department of Health announced a £25 million initiative to see mental health professionals placed in courts and police custody suites across the country. In the announcement made today by Dave Burton, Programme Director, Liaison and Diversion at NHS England, the Department committed to extending the pilot to more sites around London. The aim of the initiative is to ensure that people get the support they need as early as possible, and that their mental health needs are taken into account as part of criminal justice procedures, including at sentencing. There is a particular emphasis on reaching women, BME groups, and children and young people, including those transitioning to adulthood and involved in gangs.

The West, North West and Central London sites will be run by Together in partnership with West London Mental Health Trust and Central and North West London Mental Health Trust as part of the National Diversion Programme. Liaison and diversion practitioners will assess the needs of vulnerable individuals in magistrates courts, crown courts and police custody settings, working closely with our partners to ensure that they have access to secondary care services. Together’s Community Support Workers will help offenders to engage with relevant mental health services, and other local services to tackle things like housing, addictions or debt. By helping people tackle their problems, the likelihood of reoffending can be significantly reduced.

Our practitioners will also prepare reports for court to give the judiciary vital information to help them make decisions about bail and remand. This helps to avoid unnecessary jail terms where bail decisions or a community sentence would be more appropriate, again giving individuals the best chance of breaking the cycle of offending. Mental health awareness training will be provided to probation and other frontline criminal justice staff.

During the six months since the East and North East London trial site began, the service has worked with over 1700 service users.

Liz Felton, CEO of Together, said: “In the 20 years we have been delivering liaison and diversion, we have seen thousands of people take positive steps to get their lives back on track and move away from crime. This is so often only possible when a specialist – working closely with a range of agencies – steps in to address the complex mental health and social care issues that are at the heart of someone’s offending.

By proactively identifying and tackling people’s mental health needs, and building strong partnerships to address other issues 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 new delivery partners to bring this support to more areas of London, using our learning from phase one of the trial, which has already helped so many people in North and East London to improve their mental health and break the revolving door cycle of offending.”

The liaison and diversion 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 during 2016- 2017.

The announcement was made at the National Liaison and Diversion Conference, where Together’s Forensic Mental Health Practitioner, Francesca Clayman delivered a workshop about the need for women-specific approaches to liaison and diversion. The workshop, aimed at practitioners, commissioners and policy makers, explored the particular considerations needed when deciding whether and how to assess women who may be involved in prostitution and also have other vulnerabilities.

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 20 Projects including 10 Magistrates Courts and 2 Crown Courts.

Together’s partners for phase 1 of the trial site are Barnet, Enfield & Haringey Mental HealthTrust, East London NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust.