Evaluation of offender liaison and diversion trial schemes
A new model of liaison and diversion (L&D) schemes aim to improve early identification of a range of health vulnerabilities among people passing through the UK youth or adult criminal justice system.
An evaluation of the model found that it led to significant improvement in the nature of L&D services available. Overall, the vast majority of stakeholders, across the range of partnership agencies, reported that the information provided by L&D services was useful. Some schemes faced implementation challenges, mainly relating to developing service user engagement and ensuring consistency in the quality of reports from the L&D service.
Many individuals in the criminal justice system have health and social care needs that are unidentified and not met by available support services. Liaison and diversion (L&D) schemes aim to improve early identification of a range of vulnerabilities (such as mental health issues and learning disabilities) among people passing through the youth or adult criminal justice system.
Once needs are identified, individuals can be referred to appropriate interventions and treatment services. It is hoped this will result in improved health and social care outcomes for individuals, as well as improved decision making within the criminal justice system through the provision of timely and accurate information about health needs and vulnerabilities.
Currently, most L&D services in England are developed and funded locally, resulting in variable coverage and content of services, and potential missed opportunities for identifying needs and improving mental health and other outcomes. A new model for L&D services was trialled in 10 areas of England from April 2014 to address the limitations of existing schemes and test an approach that, if successful, might be rolled out nationally.
The Department of Health commissioned RAND Europe, in collaboration with ARCS Ltd and the University of Warwick, to evaluate the new model for L&D being trialled. The two-year evaluation looked at how the new model of L&D was implemented, its impacts on organisations and on people in contact with L&D services, and its costs and benefits. The evaluation was intended to inform future planning for possible national roll-out of L&D services.
- The National Model was, on the whole, implemented by the second year of the pilot across all ten sites and led to significant changes in the nature of L&D services available in those areas. New staff, based in police stations and courts, were able to gain access to patient information systems from mental health and other services.
- Positive benefits from the implementation of the National Model for L&D included:
- An increase in the total number of people being identified with vulnerabilities, such as those with mental health needs, substance misuse and learning disabilities.
- An increase in relevant and timely information available to police, courts and partner agencies — this quicker availability of information enhanced magistrates’ and police officers’ confidence in their decision making and, in some instances, sped up processes.
- L&D support workers — a new role introduced as part of the national model — were seen as a strength of the National Model, providing important ‘hands-on’ practical help to service users and supporting engagement and referrals. L&D support workers 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.
- Overall, the vast majority of stakeholders, across the range of partnership agencies, reported that the information provided by L&D services was useful.
- There were some schemes which faced implementation challenges, mainly relating to developing service user engagement and ensuring consistency in the quality of reports from the L&D service.