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Violence and Self-harm in Prison

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2018

Health services are commissioned by NHS England, which is responsible for assessing provision of mental health treatment in prisons in England. In Wales, health is devolved to the Welsh Government and separate arrangements are made for assessment.

I think the Minister might be a bit confused. I have the impression that he is answering a question that would have been put if the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) had not been called earlier on a different question. The question with which we are now dealing is Question 16, on levels of violence and self-harm.

My apologies, Mr Speaker.

There have been worrying increases in levels of violence and self-harm. As was said earlier, a lot of that is being driven by new drugs inducing psychotic episodes. We are working hard on this issue. We have provided training to an additional 14,000 prison officers focused on issues of violence and self-harm. More staffing will help, but there is much more to do.

The Minister will be aware that incidences of self-harm in prisons have risen by 75% since 2007. I appreciate the Minister giving us the drivers of violence and self-harm in prisons, but will he tell us in more detail what steps he will take to reduce the amount of self-harm and suicide? Does he agree that part of the solution is encouraging the use of mental health treatment requirements, which has fallen by 48%?

The hon. Lady is absolutely correct that mental health is at the heart of a lot of these issues. On the concrete steps we are taking, one is the training for 14,000 additional officers and the second is the proper use of the ACCT—assessment, care in custody and teamwork—strategy, which is the process for assessing the risk posed to the prisoner and coming up with a plan to deal with it. We have managed to significantly reduce suicide over the past 18 months, but the level is still far too high. Any death is a great tragedy, and we will continue to work very closely to reduce suicide further.

Sixty-two years ago, Bessie Braddock, the then MP for Liverpool Exchange division, stood in this Chamber and raised concerns about the appalling conditions at Liverpool Prison—then called Walton Prison—and particularly the treatment of prisoners with mental illness. In the past two years at that very same prison, seven inmates have taken their life, including Tony Paine two weeks ago. I note that the Minister said on 22 February that the conditions at the prison were “very disturbing” and “unacceptable”. What action is he going to take today to ensure that all prisoners’ mental health needs are adequately met and that no other prisoner takes their life in one of our prisons?

As the hon. Lady mentions, the situation at Liverpool Prison was very disturbing. I have visited Liverpool Prison, and mental health provision is now significantly better than it was at the time of the inspection—I spent quite a lot of time with the mental health staff there—but there is a broader issue. Although we are reducing suicide, there is still far too much of it happening. A lot of this will be about making sure not only that we deal with drugs, but that we have the right kind of purposeful activity in prisons, so that prisoners do not feel the temptation to take their own life.