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Police + Fire

Support, not prison, for vulnerable people

Integrating health and justice to better support vulnerable people in police custody.

Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Baroness Beverley Hughes, opens new custody healthcare and liaison and diversion service.

Vulnerable people who have no place in a custody cell are to receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time, thanks to a service officially launched in Greater Manchester.

At set points within the criminal justice system – in police custody, at court, or when preparing to return to the community – detainees are assessed by liaison and diversion staff, and vulnerable individuals affected by issues such as mental ill health, homelessness, or learning disabilities, are helped to access appropriate support as soon as possible.

Greater Manchester is leading the way in this field of work, and is the only area in the UK providing a fully integrated health and diversion service, using a single case management system and simpler referral pathways to better support vulnerable people, many of whom have hit rock bottom.

Jointly commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the service aims to divert vulnerable people away from the criminal justice system and into the hands of services better able to tackle the root causes of their behaviour.

Available for both adult and young offenders, the integrated service supports people affected by a wide range of issues, including physical and mental ill health, learning disabilities, debt, homelessness, drug addiction, and PTSD, providing interventions and support to people from the moment their additional needs are first identified.

Providing the detainee has given them consent, staff screen and assess the individual, sharing relevant information with criminal justice agencies to inform charging and sentencing decisions. The person is also helped to access appropriate services, such as mental and physical health care, social care, substance misuse services and safeguarding support.

Commissioned in February 2017 and developed over the last year, the Healthcare in Custody and Wider Liaison and Diversion Service is now fully operational. The service is delivered by Mitie Care and Custody, North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and Cheshire and Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company.

An event to introduce the project to wider stakeholders and discuss the learning so far, is taking place on 27 November in Manchester.

Baroness Beverley Hughes, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “While keeping the public safe is the number one priority, it’s clear that a custody cell or prison is not always the right place for vulnerable people, such as veterans, homeless people, or people with learning disabilities.

“The criminal justice system doesn’t solve their problems and doesn’t put a stop their behaviour. Too often their actions are directly linked to problems in other areas of their life – a disruption in taking prescribed medication, problems managing debt, alcohol addiction, housing problems. These are the issues that need resolving.”

Jon Rouse, Chief Officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said:“Devolution in Greater Manchester gives us an opportunity to do things differently. This service is the result of organisations from across our region working together to expand on existing provision, in a way that was simply not possible two years ago.

“We’re committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester residents. This means stepping outside those environments traditionally associated with the NHS, such as hospitals or local health centres, to ensure vulnerable people have the support they need.”

Rob Potts, Assistant Chief Constable for Greater Manchester Police, said: “We welcome this new service and recognise that custody isn’t the best place for those people who are vulnerable. We need to recognise any issues that they may have and make sure people are receiving the support they need.

“We hope that by providing this service we can help reduce reoffending and the number of people coming through the custody process with the associated outcome of fewer people becoming victims of crime.”

Dr Vis Reddy, Clinical Lead for Mitie Care and Custody, said: “Integrated, patient-centred, coordinated healthcare is now being provided across Greater Manchester’s communities for those who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

“Mitie Care & Custody, North West Boroughs NHS Foundation Trust, and Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company, have brought together their expertise of traditional custodial healthcare, liaison and diversion, and community support in an innovative partnership with the combined goals of keeping patients safe in police custody, addressing service users’ wider vulnerabilities, and supporting them to engage with health and social services in the community.

“This service aims to reduce re-offending behaviour by addressing the often complex health and social care needs of service users and, alongside the wider public sector reform agenda to engender safer, healthier and stronger communities across Greater Manchester.”

Case study

The following case study is from the Greater Manchester area, but the name has been changed to protect “Stephanie’s” identity.


In August 2017, 32 year-old Stephanie from Salford was arrested for assault and taken to Swinton police station. While there, Liaison and Diversion staff met with her and discovered that her life was slowly falling apart. She was in an abusive relationship, suffering from depression, and drinking heavily. Her arrest was another low point in a series of difficult life events.

Being listened to and shown empathy by the Liaison and Diversion Facilitator was a turning point in Stephanie’s life. For the first time someone was taking the time to hear what she had to say and provide constructive support.

Unable to return home because of her abusive partner, Stephanie was referred to a local women’s centre and attended with help from a Liaison and Diversion Service community support navigator. She received support from local substance abuse services and was able to gradually rebuild her life.

At court she received a Community Order and had to carry out unpaid community service, which she has nearly completed. She is now volunteering in addition to the work being done as part of her sentence and exploring opportunities for paid work in the future.

Although Stephanie’s arrest was a real low point in her life, the help and support she received at that point has given her the opportunity to change her life around.

Stephanie said: “My life had been turned upside down and being given a helping hand at that point was brilliant. They made sure I was safe and secure and offered that longer support in the community that has helped me start to turn my life around.  Being supported by a number of other agencies, including the Women’s Centre, has started me back on the right path for the longer term.”

Article Published: 14/12/2018 09:43 AM