The APCC is seeking Nick Clegg’s backing for a proposal that could radically improve the experiences of some of the most vulnerable people suffering from mental health conditions.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and the APCC’s lead on Mental Health and Policing, Martyn Underhill, has written to Nick Clegg in his capacity as Chair of the Mental Health Taskforce to ask for his backing to provide funding and expertise for four pilots aimed at better supporting all those with mental health issues who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System.
NHS-led Liaison and Diversion schemes are already available to identify offenders with mental health or learning disabilities and to support them to get healthcare as they progress through the criminal justice system and/or divert them to treatment as appropriate. However, there is there is no equivalent mechanism for those who come into contact with the police or criminal justice agencies but who are not offenders.
Martyn Underhill said: “Police and Crime Commissioners fully support the Liaison and Diversion schemes in place for offenders, but note there is a significant gap.
“A theme is emerging of a small but significant cohort of victims of crime with mental health conditions, whose vulnerability makes them particular prey to repeat victimisation – sometimes repeat serious sexual abuse – and whose mental illness makes that experience of being a victim of crime particularly traumatic.
“PCCs have no desire to divert the focus or funding dedicated to the current offender focused Liaison and Diversion schemes but think that an additional comparable scheme for victims and the vulnerable needs to be explored.”
The letter, which follows on from a number of helpful discussions with Home Secretary Theresa May, Norman Lamb at the Department of Health, NHS England and Mind, seeks Mr Clegg’s help in bringing together explicit new funding and relevant departments’ expertise to develop four fully researched, evidence-producing pilots in each health region in England to identify and support those with mental health conditions who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System, but who are not offenders.
Research commissioned by Mind and Victim Support indicates that 45% of those suffering from serious mental illness were victims of crime last year. The police also come into contact with vulnerable people with mental health needs when they are neither offender nor victim. One force alone last year, British Transport Police, directly prevented 631 people from taking their own lives on the railways.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said: “We welcome this proposal. Mental health is core police business, with some forces estimating that around 40 per cent of their works relates to supporting people with mental health problems. The police are ideally placed to make sure people with mental health problems who are victims of crime get the support they need, so it makes sense for forces to have a clear way of identifying a person’s needs and a route into appropriate support.
“It is important that any approach is developed in a way that takes on board the views of people with mental health problems to ensure that the right support services are commissioned.”