Probation case manager Alastair Lorimer (pictured middle) has been praised by a leading charity for the work he has done supporting an offender with mental health difficulties.
Alastair works for the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company and earned recognition at a staff awards event for the support he had given to George*, who was on licence from prison following many years of being in and out of custody.
George was a homeless street drinker in Oldham who was regularly arrested for causing disturbances, fighting with police and causing trouble at the hospital’s A&E department – to which he was a frequent visitor.
Mark Johnson, the chief executive of User Voice, praised Alastair for having the forethought to check if there were underlying issues which were exacerbating George’s behaviour.
Mark, who attended the staff recognition event, said: “I applaud Alastair for the work he has done. Far too many people caught up in our criminal justice system have problems which go untreated, but which are of fundamental importance to why they are ending up in trouble.
“In whatever walk of life we are in, sometimes it’s far easier just to engage in a ‘tick box’ exercise rather than to take time and resources to actually get to the root of the problem.
“That is why Alastair’s efforts have so impressed me.”
George is now in residential care, has significantly decreased his alcohol intake and – for the first time – has successfully completed his custodial licence.
Alastair said: “George was chaotic. He was infamous in Oldham town centre and the A&E department, where he’d end up a dozen times a week.
“When I met George, I think it’s safe to say many people had given up on him.”
George’s case was being supported by a range of agencies including Oldham Council. A professionals meeting was held, and colleagues mentioned about a head injury George had sustained earlier in his life and a possible diagnosis of Korsakoff amnesia.
Alastair said: “I wanted to get him diagnosed, but the problem we faced is that he was never out of trouble long enough to make the medical appointments he needed in order to be properly assessed because he was being constantly passed between medical services in prison and those in the community.
“In addition, for the assessment patients needed to be sober for three months.”
Alastair suspected that George has early onset dementia caused by the brain injury, a view shared by the council’s Julian Guerriero, head of Oldham’s complex dependency team, and another agency involved in the case, the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS).
Alastair said: “People always put down the fact George immediately forgot conversations was because he was drunk. He got stuck with that label.
“Everything made much more sense if George’s case were considered in light of him having a mental health issue which was directly contributing to the fact he couldn’t stop drinking.”
The DMWS offered support because George had once trained to be in the military. Alastair began making headway with other services too, thanks to help from Julian.
Alatair said: “George isn’t old enough to qualify for admittance to a care home for the elderly, but we realised he needed supported accommodation and thankfully services have combined to make this a reality.
“George loves it in the home. He is much happier, he is occupied and he no-longer spends all day drinking in the streets. He is safe and secure, and his medical condition is stable.
“It was obvious that his old lifestyle was killing him. It was challenging at times, but perseverance with his case has really paid off.
“I never expected to win an award. It felt even more humbling for Mark to give such a heartfelt praise because he has first-hand experience of addiction and really knows what he is talking about, and so that meant a lot to me.”
Julian added: “We had known about George for some time because of the high demand he placed on a range of services for almost a decade. I worked closely with Alastair to get the right people around the table to create a solution that worked for George.
“Alastair did a fantastic job in raising the issues and in persevering with the case. I am delighted he earned the award, it is thoroughly deserved.
“What is especially satisfying is George is now getting the care he needs.”
*George is not the individual’s real name.