Multi-agency board to help county’s most vulnerable people

Saturday, 26th January 2019

A MULTI-AGENCY board committed to serving Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent’s most vulnerable people is due to unveil an action plan to oversee local service improvements.

The Mental Health and Community Safety Strategic Board was established last year by Staffordshire’s Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis. The board is made up of senior representatives from the Commissioner’s Office, local authorities, Staffordshire Police, NHS England, probation services, and health and social care partners.

It aims to address gaps in the provision of services for individuals with mental health needs and other vulnerabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system in the county.

The board recently commissioned research from the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) to provide a better understanding of local demands on police and other agencies in responding to mental health incidents.

The findings from the research are currently being considered by the board and are to be used in the development of an action plan setting out priorities for service development and improvement in the way different services work together over the next two years.

Commenting on the findings, Mr Ellis said: ‘The research has examined more closely than ever before the considerable demands being placed on agencies in responding to mental health-related incidents.

‘Back in 2013 I commissioned work in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent around mental health related demand on the back of conversations with police officers and other professionals involved in criminal justice.

‘The work done across the county by multiple agencies at the time not only placed this issue firmly on Government’s agenda but also strengthened the approach and the co-operation between services here to deal with more or of this complex demand.

‘There is no question all agencies now understand the challenges better and the services are more aligned. Despite the progress there is still so much more to do and growing complexity.’

People coming into contact with criminal justice agencies are among the most vulnerable in society, with greater and more complex health and social needs, while at the same time experiencing some of the most significant barriers to accessing services.

To manage demand better and ensure the most appropriate service response, it is critical agencies are able to intervene early. This identifies needs and where necessary diverts people away from the criminal justice system and into more appropriate treatment and support services.

When the police respond to incidents involving people with mental illnesses it frequently takes longer to deal with. Officers are not trained to recognise, assess and treat mental illness – any knowledge and skills they do have is generally acquired through on-the-job experience or limited awareness training.

The research has highlighted the importance of ensuring a joined up, multi-agency approach through stronger, more effective partnership to ensure where appropriate people are able to be diverted away to available support services.

The action plan also contains provisions for trailing the roll-out of Community Sentence Treatment Requirements, which allows courts to require people to participate in community treatment as an alternative to imposing a custodial sentence.

It will also help to improve the identification of those with mental health needs and ensure appropriate pathways and services will be in place to ensure people can get the support they need.

Partners are in the process of rolling out the action plan to meet requirements across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.