WI members welcome government commitment to keep its Care not Custody promise

The National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) and the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) welcome today's announcement (Saturday 4 January 2014) of the Government's commitment to fund an extension of the liaison and diversion trial sites.

Commenting, Marylyn Haines Evans, NFWI Public Affairs Chair, said:

"The Care not Custody campaign has been very close to the hearts of many WI members. The commitment to extend the pilot scheme is an important step towards the coalition government's delivery of its care not custody promise, building on the positive commitments made in 2011.

"For too many years diversion has been an afterthought and too many people who should be diverted from police stations and courts into mental health or social care settings are ending up in prison as a default option. This is nothing short of a scandal. We now have a good foundation for change and we're starting to see the alignment of health and criminal justice systems that is critical to stop the cycle of offenders with mental health problems moving in and out of the prison estate. We are encouraged by today's announcement."

Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The determination of the WI is driving Ministers to do the right thing and divert vulnerable, mentally ill people away from bleak prison environments into the care and treatment they need. Between us, and with the backing of a coalition of professional bodies representing over two million people across the health, social care and justice sectors and wider civic society, we can make sure the government keeps to its care not custody promise."


Juliet Lyon (PRT): 07762 093 106

Mark Day (PRT): 07725 526 525

Charlotte Fiander (NFWI): 07803 086 115


The latest available statistics on people with mental health needs and learning disabilities in the justice system reveal that:

* 26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody.

* 46% of women in prison and 21% of men have attempted suicide at some point in their lives compared to 6% of the general population.

* 20 – 30% of offenders have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope with the criminal justice system.

* 7% of prisoners have an IQ of less than 70 and a further 25% have an IQ between 70 and 79.

In a thematic review of the care and support of prisoners with mental health needs, the then HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said that "prison has become, to far too large an extent, the default setting for those with a wide range of mental and emotional disorders." (Source: HM Inspectorate of Prisons (2007) The mental health of prisoners, a thematic review of the care and support of prisoners with mental health needs, London: The Stationery Office)

The Care not Custody initiative was inspired by the tragic death by suicide of a young man with schizophrenia in Manchester prison, the son of a WI member. Since then the Prison Reform Trust has worked in partnership with the National Federation of Women's Institutes to effect change.

The Care not Custody initiative has raised awareness of the significant numbers of people in prison with mental health needs; the inadequate provision of mental healthcare in prison and the community; the particular impact on women and young people; and the need for improved cooperation between the health and criminal justice sectors. It has helped to secure initial funding of £50 million for the first 100 diversion sites across England.

Building on Lord Bradley's review published in 2009, the Coalition Government has established a number of liaison and diversion pilots with the intention to roll out a national diversion and liaison service. Initially work was to be completed by the end of 2014 but the Government has now confirmed that the full roll out will be in 2017 subject to satisfactory piloting in police stations and courts.

The Care not Custody Coalition (see below), representing up to two million people across the health, social care and justice sectors and wider civic society, was convened by the WI and PRT to support the Government in keeping its Care not Custody promise and to hold Government to account for effective delivery.