Disparate services ‘fail’ offenders with mental health problems

A lack of co-ordination in multi-agency working is failing
offenders with mental health problems, new research reveals.

Mental health charity Revolving Doors Agency examined how the
multiple needs of people with mental health problems and a history
of offending were tackled by agencies.

Based on 650 people held in police stations, the research, as yet
unpublished, found that 80 per cent had at least one problem in
addition to offending and mental health issues and 54 per cent
required support from three or more agencies.

But it concludes:”The capacity to respond to clients with complex
needs who get caught up in the criminal justice system is

It identifies three key barriers to a successful multi-agency
approach: shortage of time and resources, informal inter-agency
links, and the absence of someone with responsibility for a
person’s care package.

The report argues that many services are faced with financial
constraints and staff shortages and this results in only those with
the most severe problems receiving a service, while those with a
less severe need “drop off the end”.

The report also states that services are not rewarded for good
joint working so there is little incentive to build links. Each
service has its own performance indicators based on the delivery of
that service.

While prison is an ideal place to tackle individuals’ multiple
problems, the opportunity for long-term solutions is often missed.
For example, most care provided in prisons does not continue after

The study claims that the Revolving Doors Agency’s link worker
schemes are proof that inter-agency working can be carried out
successfully. The scheme links people with mental health problems
and other needs who are in contact with the criminal justice system
to the services they require. It is funded by several agencies and
has staff from a variety of professional backgrounds.

The report says that the schemes show that more policies and
guidance are not what is required. What is needed are teams to
engage with challenging people and offer them help to resolve
multiple issues.

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