A unique project is working with people referred from police custody to help make sure they get the help they need to stay out of trouble.
Across Greater Manchester approximately 45,000 people end up in police custody every year.
Receiving help during a moment of crisis can result in people getting the support they need to stop re-offending and to reintegrate into society.
The unique partnership – commissioned by the Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham and NHS England, Mitie Care and Custody Health, North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, – launched in May this year. The team, employed by the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC), prevents people from committing more crime by working with police at the city’s custody suites to identify problems early and seek ways to support people to keep them out of trouble.
Chris Martin, CGM CRC’s Integrated Partnership Manager, heads the team of 10 Community Support Navigators. Chris has years of previous experience as a probation officer, and is passionate about the partnership.
He said: “It chimes with me because I so often met people on probation who said ‘I wish I could’ve had this support before I did a crime’.
“I’ve met very few bad people in my life. But I’ve met an awful lot who in difficult situations have made bad choices and then got stuck in a rut.
“The commonsense approach we are taking is to try to put the right support in place as early as possible.”
Staff help people from getting into more trouble by things such as: helping them find stable accommodation; accessing debt and benefits advice; accessing substance misuse support and help with employment, training and education.
Chris added: “Far too many people get locked up who have mental health needs or related problems. We all want to divert people from the criminal justice service and provide a more suitable, alternative intervention.
“The bit missing with this narrative is that when someone’s in a custody suite, they may agree they need help and make an appointment, but when that day comes – they don’t go.
“With services hard pressed to make appointments immediately, and for people who may have anxiety problems or a chaotic lifestyle, that’s understandable.
“Our service provides that extra support to get people to that appointment and begin their rehabilitative journey.”
Joann Hannaway, a Community Support Navigator, was herself on probation 22-years-ago, but received help from her probation officer Mike Bell that helped put her back on her feet.
The mum-of-three said: “Mike was the best. He was there for me, he believed in me – but apart from him there was no support at all.
“I therefore know what it’s like to be on probation, to have made mistakes, to carry that stigma and to think you are alone. But I also know that change is possible.”
Each morning the team check their lists to see who has been referred to them by custody suite staff.
Joann is responsible for Manchester city centre’s suites. After she’s contacted, she’ll arrange to meet each referral in person to identify their needs. Support can range from calling service users in the morning to remind them of appointments through to actually attending with them as an advocate.
Typical offences that people accessing the service might have made range from drunk and disorderly through to drug misuse, robbery and domestic violence.
She said: “I love this job, I love working to help people take that first step because I know that any of us can end up making bad choices. What matters is how you then put that right.
“It’s early days yet, but we are already working with people who are now standing on their own two feet and making a real go of it. That makes me so proud.”
Chris is pictured with his team of Community Support Navigators.