Offenders with mental health problems should be given better access to social services to divert them from prison, charities have told the government.
In a joint response to the Improving Health, Supporting Justice strategy, a forum of mental health and criminal justice charities including Mind, Nacro and Rethink said major changes should be made to re-balance penal policy so that more people can stay out of custody, especially women and children.
The charities called for social care to play a bigger role in the management of offenders to improve their prospects of having somewhere to live and a family to return to. The consultation was launched at the end of last year.
Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro, said: “Nacro welcomes the government’s consultation on this issue. But the real challenge will be in providing an action plan to implement the changes that are so clearly needed. We must ensure that the criminal justice system is able to identify offenders with mental health needs at the earliest possible stage.”
The charities said criminal justice agencies needed to improve their practice so that offenders are better able to access social care and health provision and criticised the strategy’s lack of reference to offenders’ social care needs. They called for the final document to recognise and address social care more fully.
Health and justice strategy calls on police to access social care