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Service for vulnerable people is shortlisted for a national award

​A service for vulnerable people arrested by police in Norfolk and Suffolk has been named as a finalist in a national competition.

The Liaison and Diversion Service (LaDS) helps to identify and reduce the factors that contribute to offending behaviour, such as debt, mental ill health, accommodation problems, substance misuse and learning disability, and supports the police and courts to deliver sentences that promote recovery from a life of crime.

Norfolk and Suffolk LaDS has been shortlisted in the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards 2018.

The service is provided by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) in partnership with Norwich charity Julian Support and also with Project Nova, which supports service personnel and veterans who have been arrested or are at risk of arrest.

Dan Chapelle, Clinical Team Leader of NSFT's Suffolk LaDS team, said the service, which supports more than 3,000 people a year, including children, can make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable people.

The Trust employs 28 people in LaDS, including LaDS practitioners of various backgrounds, such as mental health nurses, physical health nurses and social workers.

Providing cover seven days a week between 8am and 7pm, they go into the six Police Investigation Centres (PIC) in Norfolk and Suffolk – Aylsham, Bury St Edmunds, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, Martlesham and Wymondham – to meet vulnerable people who have been arrested.

Mr Chapelle said these included people with drug and alcohol problems, mental health problems, learning disabilities, juveniles, females, ex-service personnel, homeless people and people in custody for the first time.

"Our aim is to identify vulnerable people when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system and divert them into more appropriate settings," he said.

"We do this by sign posting and referring them to the appropriate treatment or support service that can help them in order to prevent them from committing further offences.

"For example, one reason why some people commit crime is because they are in debt so in these cases we sometimes refer them on to Julian Support who can help them with this. Project Nova supports service personnel and veterans in similar ways.

"Sometimes we find that a person who has been treated for mental health problems in the past has chosen not to attend any more appointments, and in these cases we can refer them to their original care co-ordinators.

"Many of the people we help have had difficulties engaging with services or don't feel services meet their needs so, with the support of partner organisations, we're well placed to make a hugely positive difference to their lives."

Mr Chapelle praised the diligence of NSFT's LaDS admin team for monitoring the progress of vulnerable people by liaising closely with the organisations they are referred to.

Of the 425 adults in Norfolk and Suffolk who received an onward referral in 2017/18, 51% attended a first appointment compared with a national average of 28%.

Thirty per cent of people in Norfolk and Suffolk with financial issues and 26% of those with accommodation concerns attended an appointment to receive help to address their identified needs, compared to the national average of 8% and 7% respectively.

Ben Curran, Head of Operations and Development at Julian Support, said: "Our talented and dedicated staff work tirelessly to support some of society's most vulnerable people who have ended up in custody, often as a result of a breakdown in their health and social circumstances. 

"We are delighted that the Liaison and Diversion Service has been shortlisted for this award, which is a reflection of their hard work and the strength of the partnership."

Colin Back, National Manager, Project Nova, said: "The Liaison and Diversion Service is an extremely valuable frontline service for our ex-military community living in Norfolk and Suffolk.

"Early intervention and detailed reports from the LaDS team enables Project Nova's co-ordinators to put in place timely and life-changing support."

Detective Chief Superintendent Julie Wvendth, Head of Joint Justice Services for Norfolk and Suffolk police, said: "For the Liaison and Diversion Service to be nominated for a national award demonstrates the fantastic partnership approach that has been adopted to bring the project to fruition.

"It provides a really important service as it identifies people who enter the criminal justice system who have particular vulnerabilities and how those people can be supported or signposted to receive additional support.

"It allows for a more comprehensive risk assessment for those detained and at point of release and, consequently, can have a significantly beneficial impact on the rest of their lives, potentially preventing them from following a life of crime."

The Norfolk and Suffolk service is one of six LaDS services to have been shortlisted in the category this year.

Winners will be announced and invited to make a presentation at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, 14 November.

The Howard League believes that measures should be in place to ensure that children and adults can be diverted from prosecution where appropriate, with courts and custody reserved for people who cannot be managed in any other way.


Case study

The case study below was included in the LaDS' entry for the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards 2018 to show how the service has made a difference.

On assessment XX described neglect since early childhood. Her parents, who misused drugs, had been using her as a "drug mule" for numerous years. She was arrested with 70 bags of cocaine and heroin.

She was seen by LaDS workers in custody and assessed as vulnerable and referred to Julian Support for assistance post-release for the following:

  • Support to move out of current home.

  • Support in court.

  • Support visiting GP to get support for her mental wellbeing.

  • Support claiming benefits.

  • Support engaging with probation and Social Services.

XX explained she had no food or electricity at home and that it was full of people misusing drugs. XX also tried to get her siblings to go to school and to take care of them. Social Services had previously taken action based on parental neglect, but XX was upset that this wasn't upheld. Since then XX found it hard to trust professionals.

Julian Support interventions

Mental health support – XX described symptoms of anxiety. She wouldn't leave her house alone. She was supported to see her GP and was signed off with anxiety and depression. GP also discussed support from local mental health services.

Foodbank - Foodbank parcels were arranged for XX.

Court support – Julian Support attended court with XX.

Housing and benefits – Applications made for benefits and XX was moved to alternative accommodation.

Professionals' feedback

Judge: "It is clear that XX has had considerable support and has proven that she is willing to accept all help offered. It is a serious offence, guidelines showing four years custodial, but I can see the neglectful circumstances that led to the offence and am willing to give XX a chance."

Barrister: "The involvement with Julian Support had been crucial to getting XX to a place where she can accept help."

Probation: "It is clear to see that XX has developed a strong relationship with Julian Support staff."

Client's feedback

"I couldn't have done it without you. You have worked your arses off, asked for extra time to work on my case, and supported me through it all. We have done so much from that first meeting when I couldn't even leave the house to meet you, to getting me to meet you regularly, building trust, getting ESA [Employment and Support Allowance], hopefully getting housing and counselling. Plus the whole court side of things. I am proud of myself. You've honestly helped me realise that I can do it. We did it together!"

Caption: Dan Chapelle, Clinical Team Leader of NSFT's Suffolk LaDS team, with a police colleague outside the Police Investigation Centre at Martlesham.

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