Dr Coral Sirdifield and Dr Rebecca Marples from CaHRU are continuing to engage with parliament and raise awareness of the research that they are doing around healthcare for people on probation. Earlier this month they met with Dr Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell and former Minister for Youth Justice, Victims, Female Offenders and Offender Health. Coral and Rebecca discussed their current work on their Improving Healthcare Commissioning for Probation: Mapping the Landscape project, and Dr Lee agreed to be part of the external advisory group for this project.
Coral and Rebecca have also recently contributed to the Ministry of Justice Consultation on the proposed changes to the structure and content of probation services Strengthening Probation, building confidence. Here they have highlighted the importance of focusing on the health of offenders to reduce health inequalities in society, meet public health targets, reduce reoffending, and save money that is currently wasted on avoidable use of crisis services and the costs associated with reoffending. Here and in their research, Coral’s team are providing an evidence base and offering practical solutions to some of the problems around improving offenders’ health and access to healthcare.
Dr Coral Sirdifield and Dr Rebecca Marples from CaHRU were invited to meet with Sam Giymah MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Duty Minister in November 2017. Coral and Rebecca discussed their current work on their Improving Healthcare Commissioning for Probation: Mapping the Landscape project, and how it fits with work that will shortly be undertaken by the department.
Together with Professor Charlie Brooker (Royal Holloway, University of London), Coral and Rebecca have also contributed to a consultation on standards and ratings for inspecting probation services.
They also attended training (along with Dr Stephanie Armstrong, CaHRU) on working with parliament hosted by De Montfort University. Here they learnt about contributing to Select Committee enquiries, and ‘POST notes’ produced by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. This was particularly useful in terms of identifying plans for a future POST note focusing on Sleep – an area that CaHRU has done a lot of research in.
If David Cameron is serious about his promise yesterday in Manchester to end discrimination and “finish the fight for real equality” he should examine the way that CCGs are funding healthcare in probation.
People on probation are a deprived and vulnerable group. National guidance in England exhorts Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission healthcare for those living in the community who are serving community orders. This includes ‘approved premises’ – accommodation providing enhanced supervision for offenders and individuals on bail who may present a high risk of harm to the public.
In an article published recently in Health and Social Care in the Community, researchers, including a member of the Community and Health Research Unit at the University of Lincoln present findings from a national survey of CCGs in England. This survey, sent as a freedom of information request to all CCGs and Mental Health Trusts in England, compared the extent to which healthcare services were commissioned for probationers in 2014 with similar data collected in 2013.
Findings show that the proportion of CCGs commissioning healthcare for probation reduced from 7% to 1%, and 20% of CCGs stated that funding healthcare for this group was the responsibility of the NHS England Area Teams. It is not the Area Team’s responsibility it is the responsibility of CCGs.
There was also a reduction in the proportion of Mental Health Trusts funding healthcare for probation between the 2013 and 2014 surveys – from 70% to 61%. The prevalence of mental health disorders in probation is high, so it was of concern that only 12% of Mental Health Trusts provided a service to support approved premises and just 32% provided clinics in probation.
The present Government’s policy, in April 2015, to privatise probation for low risk offenders in the community adds yet more complexity to this highly concerning scenario.
Professor Charlie Brooker and Dr Coral Sirdifield