Safer Stronger

Greater Manchester’s integrated healthcare custody service helps people change their lives

A NEW report has outlined how Greater Manchester’s Integrated Police Custody Healthcare and Wider Liaison and Diversion Service has been successful in supporting vulnerable people who have entered the criminal justice system.

Greater Manchester’s Integrated Service launched back in 2017 after being jointly commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP).

The service sees healthcare professionals and Liaison and Diversion service staff identifying vulnerable people when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system. L&D staff support individuals affected by issues ranging from physical and mental health problems, homelessness or drug and alcohol issues. In some cases, people have been diverted away from the criminal justice system into more appropriate settings for treatment and support.

A report, undertaken by Manchester Metropolitan University, has found the service has been a success, with the pilot going on to be rolled out in other areas. Those using the service said it had helped them to turn their lives around and was essential to their positive progress, while partner agencies described the L&D as critical and necessary.

Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester's Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Fire, said: “This report shows the Integrated Service is working in our city-region and helping vulnerable people in the criminal justice service change their lives. The service has helped a variety of individuals ranging from ex forces, people who are homeless or people with learning disabilities where a prison cell is not suitable.

“The service is a great example of partnership working at its best, with a number of agencies coming together to support the needs of individuals while identifying the root cause of what is causing their behaviour to prevent reoffending.”

The report also found the Integrated Service led to longer-term improvements, with users helped with booking appointments, bill payments and access to Universal Credit.

The service is delivered by Mitie Care and Custody and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust.

Danny Spencer, Managing Director, Care & Custody, Mitie, said: “We’re proud to see the vital work and positive impact that our team of healthcare, community engagement, and liaison and diversion colleagues are having in Greater Manchester recognised in this report.

“By providing health assessments, acting as passionate advocates, and providing ongoing support for vulnerable service users, our teams are helping these individuals to make long lasting changes to their lives.”

David (whose name has been changed to protect his identity), has described the Integrated Service as an “absolute godsend” and said it helped save his life. David, a former veteran, had been in custody on over 20 occasions and was referred to the Integrated Service Healthcare Professional for clinical reasons by Greater Manchester Police.

It emerged that David suffered from PTSD and was sofa-surfing after being made homeless. A Community Engagement Worker from the service, helped David access Universal Credit and accommodation into ex-forces supported living. From being a regular offender, to appearing in police custody and the courts, he has not committed any further offences.

David said: “When I met the Community Engagement Worker I was in a really dark place at that time in my life, destined for either death or prison; as trivial as I may make it sound, but it’s the truth.  The support that has been given and offered to me by the CSN is second to none and I really couldn’t sing her praises enough. I’ve been supported with housing, mental health, substance misuse and my criminal past; the list goes on all of which is far behind me now.

“I have changed my life around completely in the near two years I have had the pleasure of working with the service, I’m now in stable, prosperous work with the local authority under the Armed Forces Team, working with veterans with severe complexities and needs, which has opened up a number of avenues for myself.”

Jane Pilkington, director for population health at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “This innovative service is a great example of our integrated, partnership approach to population health in Greater Manchester – and was a national first. We’re committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester residents and this means stepping outside of those environments traditionally associated with the NHS, such as hospitals or local health centres, to ensure vulnerable people have the support they need.

“By working together, partner agencies can offer help in a holistic way to address health problems alongside other issues, to get someone’s life back on track.”

Assistant Chief Constable of GMP, Chris Sykes, said: “Following the launch of this service, colleagues have worked tirelessly together with partners to support vulnerable people and it's fantastic to see that people such as David have been supported through all aspects of life to get the help they need.

"This service supports us to reduce reoffending, and ensures we have the right experts to respond to vulnerable people who may have complex needs where we see that custody isn’t always the best place for them.

"Our collaborative work with partners through this service is only set to continue as we strive to support our overall outcome of fewer people becoming victims of crime."

Emma Nazurally, Associate Director of Operations for Wigan Borough at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “Positive mental health is a right, not a privilege and support for this should be available to anyone that requires it, regardless of their background or circumstances.  Research has shown that a lot of offending can be rooted in undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions.  By working so collaboratively, we have been able to reach people who previously may have fallen through gaps, and offer them the support, care, and confidence to embark on an improved, optimistic future.”

Addressing rough-sleeping and homelessness is a local priority in Greater Manchester and there is a strong association between becoming homeless and victimhood as well as offending. The Integrated Service forms part of the wider Greater Manchester integrated health and justice strategy by looking at the root causes of homelessness and supporting people off the streets.

Article Published: 23/06/2021 10:47 AM