Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP delivered a speech last night (10 July 2014) outlining how the government is ensuring that people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and other support needs caught up in the criminal justice system are identified and diverted into appropriate healthcare and support services.

The event, hosted by the Care not Custody Coalition, builds on the announcement earlier this year of an additional £25 million for the on-going development of liaison and diversion services, following an initial £50m investment, with full rollout now scheduled for 2017. The development of liaison and diversion services offering early intervention in police stations and courts has been encouraging, and sustained effort and Government commitment will be key to build on progress made.

It also marked the launch of a new briefing profiling the wide range of activities that Coalition members are engaged in in pursuit of the principles of Care not Custody, supporting the Government to deliver real change.

Read a full copy of the speech by clicking here, and download the briefing paper by clicking here.

Commenting, Janice Langley, NFWI Chair, said:

“The Care not Custody campaign is very close to the hearts of many WI members and we wholeheartedly welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment to building on the important progress already made.

“For too many years, people with mental health needs or learning disabilities have been ending up in prison as a default option, when they should have been diverted from police stations and courts into mental health treatment and social care settings; this is nothing short of a scandal.

“Since the Care not Custody campaign was launched, there has been real progress and a foundation for change with steps towards the alignment of health and criminal justice systems that is critical to stop the cycle of offenders with mental health problems moving in and out of the prison estate.  WI members are hugely encouraged by this progress but continued government leadership is key to realising the Care not Custody promise.  WI members are watching progress with interest and will remain committed to ensuring that the government delivers on its commitment."

Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Locking someone who is mentally ill in a bleak police and prison cell, with little or no support and supervision, will make things worse not better.

“The leadership that the Home Secretary is providing is vital to ensure that the government delivers on its promise to establish support for vulnerable and mentally ill people caught up in the justice system. The commitment and determination of the WI has been critical in forming a consensus on the need for change, and galvanising support across a coalition of professional bodies representing over two million people in health, social care and justice sectors and wider civic society.”