Community mental health provision for female offenders is poor, partly because care thresholds are so high, inspectors warned today.
In 53% of cases examined, mental health services were unsatisfactory for women sentenced to a community order or released from prison on licence, a joint inspection by probation, prisons and Crown Prosecution Service inspectorates found.
The inspection said mental health provision was especially important for women, whose offences were more often than men's associated with a mental health disorder.
Tight resources combined with high thresholds for care were highlighted as a concern.
"Many women offenders who appear before the courts are vulnerable, but the issues which they present with are not sufficiently serious to necessarily amount to a mental illness," the report said.
"However, over half of the women in our case sample had mental health issues and we were concerned that women who self-harmed, or had other mental health issues, such as depression, could go untreated because of the lack of provision and resources."
Some women also faced difficulties in obtaining psychiatric assessments where more than one primary care trust was responsible for offenders within one local authority as a result of boundary designation.
There was hope, however, that the planned health and well-being boards would improve service provision.
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