Courts are failing to refer people with mental health problems for treatment when they issue community sentences, a Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health report claimed this week.
Less than 1% of the 120,000 people issued with community orders in 2006 were given a mental health treatment requirement (MHTR), despite estimates that half of those on community orders have at least one mental health problem.
By contrast, 11,000 referrals were made for drug treatment and 75,000 for supervision by the probation service.
The report attributed the low use of MHTRs to limited community mental health services, problems assessing an offender’s eligibility for mental health treatment or the stigma attached to having mental health problems.
The report also found wide variations in the use of MHTRs.
Linda Seymour, head of policy at the Sainsbury Centre and one of the report’s authors, said: “The mental health treatment requirement is clearly not being used fully or consistently. Many more offenders with mental health problems are being imprisoned because judges see no alternative for them in the community.”