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Research Questions

  1. Does the National Model for L&D being trialled have benefits over locally-developed L&D services?
  2. Do L&D services offer benefits in terms of health and criminal justice outcomes, compared to areas with no L&D services?
  3. How has the National Model been implemented in each trial site and how is model was functioning locally?

Liaison and diversion (L&D) schemes operate primarily in police custody suites and courts and aim to identify and assess people with vulnerabilities as they pass through the criminal justice system, to ensure their needs are identified.

L&D services have been operating in England for at least 25 years. Not all areas have L&D services and among those that do, there is considerable variation in the nature of the services. In 2009, Lord Bradley reviewed the provision of services for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities in the criminal justice system and recommended that a national L&D model be created. Between 2011 and 2013, the Department of Health was supported by an external partner, the Offender Health Collaborative, to develop a national L&D model.

The aims of the National Model are to: Improve access to healthcare and support services for vulnerable individuals and a reduction in health inequalities; divert individuals, where appropriate, out of the youth and criminal justice systems into health, social care or other supportive services; deliver efficiencies within the youth and criminal justice systems; and reduce reoffending or escalation of offending behaviours. In April 2014 a new model for L&D schemes was implemented in ten areas of England.

An evaluation was commissioned by the Department of Health to look at the implementation of the new model in these sites, and to investigate any impacts on the criminal justice process, impacts on local organisations and impacts on the health and criminal justice outcomes of service users.

Key Findings

The implementation of the National Model for L&D had resulted in significant changes in all ten sites.

  • The National Model was, on the whole, implemented by the second year of operation across all ten sites.

The implementation of the National Model had a range of positive benefits.

  • These included an increase in the total number of people being identified with vulnerabilities and an increase in relevant and timely information available to police, courts and partner agencies.

New L&D support workers were seen as a strength of the National Model.

  • Support workers provided important 'hands-on' practical help to service users and supporting engagement and referrals. They also provided vital reassurance to service users in custody or in court and motivated them to accept support.

Partnerships between police and L&D services were generally strong and the L&D service was valued in the custody suite.

There were some schemes which faced implementation challenges.

  • These were mainly service user engagement and ensuring consistency in the quality of reports from the L&D service.

Overall, the vast majority of stakeholders, across the range of partnership agencies, reported that the information provided by L&D services was useful.

Research conducted by

The evaluation was funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme and undertaken by RAND Europe in collaboration with the University of Warwick and Applied Research in Community Safety Ltd.

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