12. What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the provision of training for prison service staff on the management of offenders with mental health conditions. (17823)
Ministry of Justice and Department of Health Ministers and senior officials discuss offender health issues regularly. Over 17,000 prison officers received mental health awareness training between 2006 and 2009. A new mental health training framework was launched in 2009-10, which regional offender health teams now co-ordinate.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer and I am delighted to hear that his Department is working with the Department of Health. Will he do all that he can to work effectively with that Department to ensure the proper commissioning of mental health services, which will not only improve intervention in the police station, but ensure a wider range of effective sentences in our courts?
That is precisely what we want to do, and my hon. Friend’s approach is very much in the right direction. Much reform will take place in the Department of Health, including obviously the commissioning of services for mental health. It is important that account is taken of the need to commission proper services of all kinds for prisoners, and that is being taken on board by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and his team. We will work closely with them. The present prison population includes people whose criminality goes alongside a definite need for support—in this case for mental health problems—which, if tackled successfully, might reduce their liability to reoffend.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the treatment of prisoners with mental health problems does not just end when they leave prison but continues far beyond? Will he please outline what steps the Government plan to take to support prisoners with mental health problems after they leave prison?
I agree entirely. It is all part of what we hope to do on rehabilitation. In addition to tackling prisoners’ problems inside prison, we have to look ahead and almost certainly join up with the community mental health services providing support for prisoners when they are released. That will be an important part of ensuring that the reforms we are carrying out to the prison service and the criminal justice system are properly tied up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health’s important reforms to the future shape of the NHS.
I recall that proposal in the coalition agreement. I think I mistakenly drew upon it a few moments ago when talking about drug treatments—I do not think we will be moving to that quite so rapidly. However, that is an important part of the coalition agreement, and I can only say at this stage that we certainly have not forgotten about it and are working on it. Undoubtedly, if we can set up a proper and, where necessary, secure treatment facility, it would perhaps be a better place to treat mental illness than an overcrowded prison.
What discussions have been held between the Secretary of State’s Department and the devolved Administrations on this important issue? Are there any glaring variations between the training available across the different regions of the United Kingdom?
These matters are devolved. I have no doubt that we will look at good practice on both sides of the Irish sea from time to time to ensure that we benefit from what we each do. I am in regular contact with my opposite number in the devolved Northern Ireland Government, and I will try to take the opportunity to discuss these matters with him to see how we are both getting on.
I am encouraged by the responses from the Secretary of State, particularly given that this is a big issue in my constituency, which is home to Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton. We want to expand provision for mental health services in that prison so we are keen to know whether he agrees that it would be a mistake this week to reduce funding for mental health services in our prisons?
Not surprisingly, everyone is trying to anticipate tomorrow’s announcements. We will have to make fairly marked reductions to the budget of the Ministry of Justice and the various services for which we are responsible. Against that background, we will need to take an approach to how we tackle these problems that is more radical and reforming than the previous one, which involved simply paying for more and more places for more and more people, leading to overcrowded prisons. Our approach will underline the need to take a particular look at drugs, mental health, illiteracy, innumeracy, foreign national prisoners and all the other things to ensure that we find better ways of dealing with rehabilitation problems whenever possible.