Prisons: Mental Health Services

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 19th July 2021.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the report entitled The future of prison mental health care in England, published by Centre for Mental Health on 25 June 2021, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of implementing recommendations (a) one and (b) two of that Report.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Government takes the mental health of people within the criminal justice system very seriously, and we welcome the Centre for Mental Health’s important report which was commissioned by NHS England and Improvement. We are actively considering the findings with health and justice partners.

Extensive work is already ongoing across the Department to make our prisons safer. We are improving our mental health training offer, including a specific trauma-informed module for all new staff. To bolster current support systems, we are piloting staff support leads who will be responsible for leading on wellbeing and support services. The intention is that these leads will be supporting all prisons later this year. In order to enable appropriate diversion from custody, Drug Rehabilitation Requirements (DRRs) and Alcohol treatment requirements (ATRs) are available in all courts as part of the existing national Community Sentence Treatment Requirements (CSTR) provision. These are being strengthened through Local Authority funding, and furthermore, Primary Care Mental Health Treatment requirements (MHTRs) are being made available as part of a roll out programme.

In January, together with the Department for Health and Social Care, we published a White Paper setting out proposals for landmark reform of the Mental Health Act and responding to the findings of the Wessely Review.   Among other reforms, this includes commitments to support offenders with serious mental health needs to access the care they need as quickly and early as possible. We are accepting, and intend to take forward, the vast majority of the Review’s recommendations, including a commitment to end the use of prison as a place of safety under the Mental Health Act.

The Government shares the objective of ensuring that the separate provision in the Bail Act 1976 is not used to remand in custody individuals suffering from severe mental health crises. However, the power in the Bail Act goes much wider than mental health. This power covers a broad range of situations and is a last resort where the court can see no other option for protecting the individual themselves, or on occasions, the public. We have therefore committed to review this area which will enable us to develop and implement the right approach to this issue.

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