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New service extends expert help for vulnerable people in police stations and courts

A new service  launched just over four weeks ago has been giving vulnerable people in Norfolk and Suffolk help to access additional support to get their lives back on track should they be arrested. 

The Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion service (CJLD) is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust  alongside partners Julian Support and military charity Walking With The Wounded.

It offers valuable support for people of all ages who are attending a police investigation centre or magistrates and crown court and have vulnerabilities such as mental health issues, learning disabilities, substance misuse or who are experiencing housing or financial issues. This could include onward referral into a variety of services such as those provided by the Trust, local GPs or social services, as well as help with education and employment.

The year-long trial has been funded with £1.3m from NHS England. It has allowed the Trust to recruit an additional 15 full time equivalent staff, taking the total number in the CJLD team to 22 practitioners. They will work alongside six Recovery Coordinators from Julian Support, who will help clients to access support from other agencies or existing community resources.

Staff from the team are based in police investigation centres and courts across Norfolk and Suffolk so that they can quickly identify people who could benefit from help and refer them as appropriate. Those with a military background may be referred to Walking With The Wounded's Project Nova initiative, which supports veterans who have become caught up in low level anti-social and petty crime activity back into mainstream society and long term employment.

The enhanced service operates seven days a week, providing a 24 hour access service where demand requires, and will also cater for people of all ages. It builds on the existing liaison and diversion service which the Trust has run across Norfolk and Suffolk for many years, which was aimed at adults and operated during office hours.

Ian Trenholm, Deputy Service Manager (Secure Services) at the Trust, said: "We are delighted to be working with our partners at Julian Support and Walking With The Wounded's Project Nova initiative to extend our existing services for this vulnerable group. The new service model has already proved successful during trials elsewhere in the country, and we are pleased that people in Norfolk and Suffolk are now able to benefit from this service.

"From their bases in police stations and courts, the CJLD team can identify anyone with a vulnerability which may lead to offending and will talk through the options available to them. They will then be referred onwards to the appropriate service providers so that they can receive support as they move through the criminal justice system and into the right mental health or social care service.

"This will not only improve their quality of life by giving them the help they need to boost their health, but will also reduce the likelihood they will re-offend or reach crisis point. As well as having a big impact on the individual, this will bring benefits to the wider community by keeping people out of prison and helping to reduce offending."

NHS England has run 10 pilots at sites across the country during the past year, with more than 18,700 people benefitting from support for their vulnerability as a result.

Rachel Omori, Head of Operations with Julian Support, said: "Julian Support has been established for 25 years and works with people who have mental health difficulties across Norfolk and Suffolk.

"We support individuals to use the strengths they have and resources within the community to manage their offending behaviour and improve their quality of life.

"We are very pleased to be an integral part of this new service and look forward to continue working with our partners to make a real difference to people who need support."

Fergus Williams, Director of Operations at Walking With The Wounded, said: "There are a number of people who leave the Armed Forces who find it difficult to adapt to civilian life and find themselves falling foul of the law as the result of any mental health injuries caused by their service.

"Due to their circumstances, these veterans have needs which often are not understood or appreciated by the justice system as it is.

"Project Nova is a unique programme, intervening when veterans first come into contact with the police service. Working very closely with the police, the programme seeks to identify the causes of their actions and address the underlying issues. Such intervention will aim to halt a downward spiral and reduce the likelihood of them reoffending. We are delighted to be part of this new service which will help those who need the support to get them back into mainstream society and long term independence."