Hafal to launch Criminal Justice Link Service in celebration of World Mental Health Day

Health and Social Services Minister Edwina Hart will officially launch Hafal’s new Criminal Justice Link Service at the Senedd on Wednesday October 14th.

The service, which is funded by a combined sum of £1.2m from the Lloyds TSB Foundation (Ex-Prisoner Programme) and the Big Lottery (Mental Health Matters) will be made available throughout Wales and is aimed at anyone with a serious mental illness who has become involved (or is at risk of becoming involved) in the criminal justice system. A grant from Comic Relief funded Hafal’s development work on criminal justice which led to this new service.

The Link Service will provide:

· Advice and information – on the areas required to address recovery from serious mental illness, including: accommodation, physical wellbeing, work and occupation, training and education, finance and money, social, cultural and spiritual matters, parenting and caring responsibilities, medication and other forms of treatment for serious mental illness.

· Short-term informal advocacy e.g. help with making initial phone calls, help with introductions to support agencies and encouraging initial attendance at appointments.

· Signposting to additional support – Hafal’s Link Officers will direct individuals to appropriate support agencies.

· Specialist support and resettlement service for women prisoners from Wales – Hafal’s Link Officers will meet women from Wales in prison; assist them to plan their needs upon release and help to ensure that appropriate services are in place. The Link Officers will then provide support for up to six weeks after release.

· Short-term support – Hafal’s Link Officers will support the relevant caseworkers and provide personal support to clients including: listening, advice, guidance and support, especially during transitional periods, e.g. from prison back into the community.

Ahead of the service’s launch, which is being held in celebration of World Mental Health Day, Penny Cram, Hafal’s Criminal Justice Lead Officer, said: “Hafal has employed a team of six Criminal Justice Link Officers to develop the service. Four Officers will cover Wales providing support, advice and guidance to offenders in the community and to those who might be at risk of offending.

“There are also two specialist posts within the team. As Welsh women are largely held in custody in HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire and HMP Styal in Cheshire, two Link Service Officers will work in partnership with the relevant statutory agencies to deliver a more specialist support and resettlement service to women from these prisons who are returning to Wales upon their release.

“Overall, the Criminal Justice Link Service’s job is to help people engage with mental health services, to broker services for people and to help people maintain that engagement. The Link Service is not a replacement for statutory provision and the Link Officers will not take over responsibility from the relevant caseworkers in either the criminal justice agencies or mental health services; but they will provide a point of contact for professionals (as well as clients themselves) to get specialist advice and guidance.”

Link Service responses will depend on the nature of individual clients’ needs. Levels of support will vary and range from:

· advice over the telephone taking only a few minutes;

· information sent in the post;

· a meeting with the Link Officer resulting in support for up to six weeks.

In all cases detailed personal advice will be offered to clients giving useful information about the specific area of need together with more general advice.

The Criminal Justice Link Service launch will take place at The Oriel Gallery, the Senedd, The National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA on Wednesday October 14th 2009.

Hafal has published a guide that raises awareness on what those with a serious mental illness can do if they find themselves in prison. To read Hafal’s Criminal Justice Survival Guide please visit: http://www.hafal.org/pdf/A%20Criminal%20Justice%20Survival%20Guide_pdf

Hafal has also published an action plan for people with serious mental illness who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System, Reducing Risk, Achieving Recovery. To read this guide please visit: http://www.hafal.org/pdf/ReducingRisk/Reducing_Risk.pdf