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Response to the mental health and wellbeing plan discussion paper

7 July 2022

“The Howard League agrees with the statement from the Lived Experience Advisory Network, which calls for: ‘needs based, not diagnosis-based, care and treatment … an NHS and social care system which is focused on and curious about a whole person and their needs for recovery, considering both their strengths, as well as the wide range of factors which might impact their mental wellbeing, including their physical health.’

“People in prison must not be excluded from this shift towards more responsive and person-centred care. At present, the needs of people in prison are neglected, their strengths are overlooked, and the factors which cause poor wellbeing are only becoming worse.

“The prison environment routinely retraumatises the significant number of people in custody who have experienced abuse in childhood and/or as adults, and leads to anxiety and paranoia for people who know or fear that they are at risk of violence.

“Even more troublingly, the prison system too often punishes people for their needs. People who are thought to have “behavioural” problems, rather than a mental health diagnosis, receive little care and can languish in segregation units. Many of those who remain in prison on an imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentence, long over tariff, have been refused release partly because of mental health needs which
have been exacerbated by the sentence itself.

“The mental health and wellbeing plan could build on the principle of ‘equivalence of care’ – that healthcare in prison must be an equivalent standard to healthcare in the community – by ensuring that its proposals on wellbeing, suicide prevention, access to mental health support and inpatient care, and immediate help for people in crisis benefit people in prison.

“The Department of Health and Social Care could also consider routinely evaluating how the policies of other departments impact its aims on mental health and wellbeing, including criminal justice policy.”

Read the full response

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