cell doorClinical commissioning groups (CCGs) should ensure they offer coherent and effective support for people with mental ill health who are diverted from police stations and courts, according to a new report.

The report, Keys to Diversion, from the Centre for Mental Health outlines what makes a successful liaison and diversion services and makes a number of recommendations for CCGs to improve support for people with mental health and other needs.

Keys to Diversion identified the elements of successful liaison and diversion services in Lewisham, Manchester, Portsmouth and in Plymouth, Bodmin and Truro. It found that the most successful teams offer support for a range of needs, build packages of support from different local agencies, and stay in touch with people after they have been referred to other services.

Other elements of an effective service include offering immediate help with people’s basic needs, such as housing and benefits, as well as mental health problems. The services should also have a comprehensive knowledge of local services for people with multiple needs and help make connections for people rather than just referring them on. And they offer ‘drop-in’ support whenever people need it.

Coordinate care

Keys to Diversion calls on local NHS commissioners to coordinate care across agencies for people with multiple needs so that liaison and diversion services can help them to get the support they need to improve their health and to prevent future offending. This should include timely access to psychological therapy for people in contact with liaison and diversion services and those under probation supervision.

The services studied for Keys to Diversion include Mo:Del in Manchester, which works with up to 150 people at a time for up to six months. Its clients are offered help to get work, manage their finances and learn basic skills such as cookery.

CASS, a Rethink Mental Illness drop-in service that delivers early intervention to people attending Plymouth, Bodmin and Truro Magistrates Courts, was also studied. It helps to address complex needs – such as homelessness, drugs and alcohol, finance, education and employment, physical and mental health – by supporting people through Court process and helping them with supported referrals to agencies based in local communities.  

Report author, Dr Graham Durcan, said: “Keys to Diversion identifies the essential ingredients of an effective liaison and diversion service. The people we met who use these services invariably had a history of neglect, trauma, abuse and mental ill health. Many had been turned away or received only intermittent help from mental health services. Yet with consistent and coherent support, they can rebuild their lives.”