Image of a crowd in Greater Manchester

Vulnerable people entering the criminal justice system are getting the support they need thanks to a service commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

Greater Manchester’s Integrated Police Custody Healthcare and Wider Liaison and Diversion Service launched back in 2017 and sees healthcare professionals and Liaison and Diversion service staff identifying vulnerable people when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Support is given to individuals affected by issues ranging from physical and mental health problems, homelessness or drug and alcohol issues. In some cases, people have been diverted away from the criminal justice system into more appropriate settings for treatment and support.

A report, undertaken by Manchester Metropolitan University, has found the service has been a success, with the pilot going on to be rolled out in other areas. Those using the service said it had helped them to turn their lives around and was essential to their positive progress, while partner agencies described the L&D as critical and necessary.

The service is delivered by Mitie Care and Custody and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust.

David (whose name has been changed to protect his identity), has described the Integrated Service as an “absolute godsend” and said it helped save his life. David, a former veteran, had been in custody on over 20 occasions and was referred to the Integrated Service Healthcare Professional for clinical reasons by Greater Manchester Police.

It emerged that David suffered from PTSD and was sofa-surfing after being made homeless. A Community Engagement Worker from the service, helped David access Universal Credit and accommodation into ex-forces supported living. From being a regular offender, to appearing in police custody and the courts, he has not committed any further offences.

David said: “When I met the Community Engagement Worker I was in a really dark place at that time in my life, destined for either death or prison; as trivial as I may make it sound, but it’s the truth.  The support that has been given and offered to me by the CSN is second to none and I really couldn’t sing her praises enough. I’ve been supported with housing, mental health, substance misuse and my criminal past; the list goes on all of which is far behind me now.

“I have changed my life around completely in the near two years I have had the pleasure of working with the service, I’m now in stable, prosperous work with the local authority under the Armed Forces Team, working with veterans with severe complexities and needs, which has opened up a number of avenues for myself.”

Jane Pilkington, director for population health at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “This innovative service is a great example of our integrated, partnership approach to population health in Greater Manchester – and was a national first. We’re committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester residents and this means stepping outside of those environments traditionally associated with the NHS, such as hospitals or local health centres, to ensure vulnerable people have the support they need.

“By working together, partner agencies can offer help in a holistic way to address health problems alongside other issues, to get someone’s life back on track.”

Addressing rough-sleeping and homelessness is a local priority in Greater Manchester and there is a strong association between becoming homeless and victimhood as well as offending. The Integrated Service forms part of the wider Greater Manchester integrated health and justice strategy by looking at the root causes of homelessness and supporting people off the streets.

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