In the five years since I published my independent review of the support offered to people with mental health problems and people with learning difficulties in the criminal justice system, we have seen significant progress towards achieving the vision set out in that report with the clear and unambiguous support of both governments.
In looking back at what has changed over the last five years, it has been encouraging to see the development of more liaison and diversion teams, both for adults and for children and young people, offering early intervention in police stations and courts across the country. While there is a lot more to be done in making sure liaison and diversion is available everywhere, the commitment of the Department of Health, Ministry of Justice and NHS England to the successful completion of this job has been key to the continued progress we are making.
We are also now seeing the emergence of new and creative ways of supporting people with mental health problems and those with learning difficulties across the criminal justice system. Initiatives like street triage, which offers a more humane crisis response, and youth justice liaison and diversion, which provides support to children and young people when they come into contact with the police. We still have a lot to learn from these as we build the evidence of what makes the biggest difference to people’s lives and the most cost-effective use of public money.
I have been impressed ever since I began work in this area with the dedication, creativity and resilience of the people who work in it. Many have personal experience of being in the criminal justice system themselves and now try to help others going through it. Many work in voluntary and community organisations, offering credible alternatives to traditional services, while others are based in the NHS and local government, finding new ways of improving care and support despite the difficult financial climate.
This report looks at what has been achieved so far, at what has changed in the context we work in, and at what still needs to be done. I hope that it demonstrates the value of finishing the vital job we have begun of implementing liaison and diversion nationwide as well as making further progress in less well developed actions.
Finally, I hope that in another five years’ time we are able to look back on continued progress and to say with confidence that as a society we respond more effectively and more humanely to the needs of people with mental health problems and people with learning difficulties who are at risk of offending or who come into contact with the criminal justice system.