In March 2011, I announced investment in the development of health and criminal justice liaison and diversion services of £5 million over the course of the year (2011-12). I am pleased to announce that investment in these services will be further increased to £19.4 million for 2012-13.
Liaison and diversion services aim to ensure that wherever offenders are in the criminal justice system, their health needs or vulnerabilities are identified and assessed and they are linked to appropriate treatment services. Information about their needs can then be provided to the police and courts to enable them to make informed decisions about charging and sentencing. Addressing their needs is also expected to contribute to a reduction in the likelihood of their reoffending. Liaison and diversion services will be accessible to all offenders—whether adult men or women, children and young people, and whether they have a mental health or substance misuse problem, learning disability or personality disorder.
Work over the past year has allowed us to set up a liaison and diversion network, consisting of 94 adult and youth pathfinder sites, alongside 10 police forces who are exploring the transfer of commissioning responsibility for health services in police custody suites to the NHS. These pathfinder sites are leading the way in developing how diversion services will work in the future, as well as understanding the costs and benefits they generate, to inform a decision about rolling out new services across the country.
Over the next three years, this network of sites will focus on developing an implementation plan which will include: guidance on good practice; quality standards and outcomes; and work force development and training plan.
Increased investment will also allow selected pathfinder sites to test different elements of service provision, and will include looking at treatment-based options for sentencers as an alternative to custody for those with health needs or vulnerabilities. This testing work will be particularly important for developing a consistent service model and informing the set-up of the remainder of diversion services during roll-out.
The pathfinder sites are already providing information on their services which will contribute to the development of the business case (due for completion in early 2013), which will inform a ministerial decision on full roll out. We will also undertake a fuller evaluation to capture the best of local learning and explore options for making schemes available nationally by 2014. An evaluation of six existing youth justice liaison and diversion pilots has already taken place and the report from this work is due to be published early this year.
These services are integral to the delivery of the Government’s vision for the rehabilitation of offenders, as well as the cross-Government strategy on improving mental health outcomes, both of which were published last year. Both the Department of Health and Ministry of Justice are committed to this work, as reflected in both departmental business plans, and are working together to deliver liaison and diversion services across the country by 2014.