Mental health teams in prisons are under-staffed and under-funded, according to a Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health report which found the “very high levels of need” of prisoners are not being met.
The study, published today, said that inreach teams in England, which support prisoners with severe and enduring mental health problems, received £300 per prisoner on average – about a third of the resources allocated to community mental health teams.
The average prison inreach team consists of four staff, but the report said this needed to increase to 12 in order to meet the needs of all prisoners, an estimated one in 12 of whom have severe mental health problems.
‘Worrying inequalities in care’
Researchers from Lincoln University and SCMH discovered “worrying inequalities in prison mental health care spending across England”.
Teams in London, Yorkshire and the North East received double the amount given to those in the East Midlands and the South West, the report said.
Sean Duggan, Sainsbury Centre director of prisons and criminal justice, called for major investment and national guidelines to end the “postcode lottery”.
He said: “Many inreach teams are struggling to offer a decent service in the face of inadequate funding and very high levels of need among prisoners.
“We need to see a major boost in spending on inreach across the country, especially in those areas that are falling behind.”
Responding to the report, Howard League for Penal Reform director Frances Crook said: “Currently, individuals are being released from prison with a likelihood their mental health needs have been exacerbated by their time inside and with an increased risk of reoffending.”