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30 January 2014

Care not Custody is a promise worth keeping

A letter from the Care not Custody Coalition published in the Guardian on Friday January 10 2014 welcomed the government’s announcement launching a trial scheme posting mental health nurses in police stations in 10 areas in England. However the coalition urged the government to stick to its new deadline of national delivery by 2017, three years later than originally planned.

We welcome the announcement of the government’s determination to keep its Care not Custody promise (Hopes mental health nurses in courts will cut reoffending rates, 4 January). However, we note that the initial commitment for delivery of national liaison and diversion services by 2014 will not now be met. For too long people with a mental health need or learning disability, who should be diverted from police stations and courts into treatment or social care, have ended up in prison as a default option, while others are left without the support they need as they continue through the justice process.

High numbers of people in prison have mental health needs, and nearly half of all women in prison and over a fifth of men have attempted suicide at some point in their lives compared with 6% of the general population. The Care not Custody initiative was inspired by the tragic suicide of a young man with schizophrenia in Manchester prison, the son of a WI member.

The Care not Custody Coalition, representing up to 2 million people across the health, social care and justice sectors and wider civic society, was convened in 2011 to support the government in keeping its promise and to hold it to account for effective delivery. While the commitment to fund an extension of liaison and diversion trial sites in police stations and courts and a firm plan to roll out national services by 2017 gives a good foundation for change, this revised timeframe must now be kept.

Marylyn Haines-Evans Public affairs chair, National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Juliet Lyon Director, Prison Reform Trust
Steve Williams Chair, Police Federation of England and Wales
Dr Peter Carter Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Nicholas Fluck President, The Law Society of England and Wales
Sue Bailey President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Eoin McLennan-Murray President, Prison Governors Association
Peter McParlin National chairman, Prison Officers Association
Sue Hall Chair, Probation Chiefs Association
Javed Khan Chief executive, Victim Support
Paul Farmer Chief executive, Mind
Laurie Clarke Chief Executive, British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy
Paul Jenkins Chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Sean Duggan Chief executive, Centre for Mental Health
Nigel Lithman Chairman, Criminal Bar Association
Vicki Helyar-Caldwell Director, Criminal Justice Alliance
Sarah Clarke Vice-chair, Training and Accreditation Committee, Advocacy Training Council
Karyn Kirkpatrick Chief executive, Keyring Living Support Network
John Graham Director, Police Foundation
Jackie Russell Director, Women’s Breakout
Chris Bath Chief executive, National Appropriate Adult Network
Rachel Halford Director, Women in Prison