Russell Webster - Work with Offenders
Work with offenders looks at a new evaluation of the national model
The RAND Corporation has just published its Outcome evaluation of the national model for liaison and diversion. As most readers will know, Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services are designed to support people with mental health problems, a learning disability, substance misuse problems and other vulnerabilities including unstable accommodation and risk of self-harm or domestic abuse.
What are liaison and diversion services?
L&D services have operated in police custody suites in some form for over 25 years, but their nature and quality varied between locations and there were many areas of the country where no L&D services were available.
However in 2011 and 2013, the Department of Health developed a national L&D model which was launched the following year, piloted at ten trial sites initially. The pilots were successful and the model was rolled out across the country in 2017 and 2018. The National Model for L&D provides 24-hour, seven days per week services for people of all ages in the adult and youth justice pathways, covering a range of health issues and ‘vulnerabilities’ including mental health, physical health and learning disabilities.
There are four main goals for these L&D services:
RAND’s evaluation of the National Model for L&D was conducted at 27 sites in England. Interestingly, it employed a novel, linked data set combining national level administrative data from both the healthcare and criminal justice sectors. The data set combined information from four separate healthcare sources (Hospital Episode Statistics Accident & Emergency, Mental Health Services Datasets, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies database, National Drug Treatment Monitoring System) and two separate criminal justice sources (Police National Computer, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service).
This evaluation examined the impact of the National Model for L&D on health service utilisation, reconviction, diversion from the criminal justice system and timeliness of court processes, as well as the economic effects of identified impacts. Outcomes included:
Analyses conducted across the data sources consistently showed that L&D services are successfully engaging with a group of service users with a broad range of vulnerabilities, often at a time of acute crisis when they are most in need of support. The strongest effect appeared to be an increase in diversion from custodial sentences, although L&D services may also increase referrals to mental health and drug and alcohol treatment services.
However, it is interesting to note that there was no evidence of an impact on offending, but also no evidence that outcomes became worse due to L&D referral.
The main findings from the research were:
Finally, the evaluation conducted a cost benefit analysis and found that the L&D programme contributes to savings in the criminal justice system of between £13.1 million and £41.5 million through diversion from custody and consequent increases in productivity.