Probation hostels ‘failing’ those at risk of suicide

Probation hostel staff are failing vulnerable residents at risk of suicide or self-harm, according to a report by criminal justice inspectorates.

The report into a cross-section of hostels in England, jointly carried out by the probation, prison and constabulary inspectors, found that suicide prevention procedures “needed urgent improvement” in every hostel visited. In particular, offender managers and staff often did not carry out a proper assessment for residents, kept poor records and had not received sufficient training. There were also few alcohol services available to residents to help them deal with their misuse, despite the high prevalence.

Sparked by Panorama

The report was sparked by criticisms by a BBC Panorama programme into hostel management. Opposition from local people has blocked the creation of new hostels over the past few years and there are currently not enough hostel places to cope with demand. Inspectors also found that there were not enough resettlement or move-on places due to a lack of co-operation with local authorities.

Between 1998 and 2006 there were 157 deaths in hostels, 34 of which were from suicide and 70 from an overdose. Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “A major concern is the misuse of custody or punishment in the community for people who are mentally ill and in need of treatment.”

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