Former veteran praises custody service as an 'absolute godsend'

The service supports vulnerable people in Wigan and across Greater Manchester who have entered the criminal justice system

Friday, 25th June 2021, 3:25 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 3:26 pm
Prison cell
Prison cell

A former veteran has described a custody service which helps people in Wigan as an “absolute godsend” and said it “helped save his life”.

David, whose name has been changed to protect his identity had been in custody on over 20 occasions.

He was referred to Greater Manchester’s Integrated Police Custody Healthcare and Wider Liaison and Diversion Service.This supports vulnerable people who have entered the criminal justice system.

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It emerged that David suffered from PTSD and became homeless. A Community Engagement Worker from the service helped David access Universal Credit and accommodation into ex-forces supported living.

From being a regular offender to appearing in police custody and the courts, he has not committed any further offences.

He said: "When I met the Community Engagement Worker I was in a really dark place at that time in my life, destined for either death or prison; as trivial as I may make it sound, but it’s the truth.

"The support that has been given and offered to me by the CSN is second to none and I really couldn’t sing her praises enough.

"I’ve been supported with housing, mental health, substance misuse and my criminal past; the list goes on all of which is far behind me now.

And David has managed to find work with the local authority under the Armed Forces team.

He added: “I have changed my life around completely in the near two years I have had the pleasure of working with the service, I’m now in stable, prosperous work with the local authority under the Armed Forces Team, working with veterans with severe complexities and needs, which has opened up a number of avenues for myself.”

David's story is one of many to be told since the service launched back in 2017, with others using it saying it has "helped them to turn their lives around". Others have said it was "essential to their positive progress".

A report by Manchester Metropolitan University has found the service has been a success, with the pilot going on to be rolled out in other areas.

The service sees healthcare professionals and Liaison and Diversion service staff identifying vulnerable people when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system.

L&D staff support people affected by physical and mental health problems, homelessness or drug and alcohol issues.

In some cases, people have been diverted away from the criminal justice system into more appropriate settings for treatment and support.

Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester's deputy mayor for policing, crime, criminal justice and fire, said the services was changing lives.

She said: The service has helped a variety of individuals ranging from ex forces, people who are homeless or people with learning disabilities where a prison cell is not suitable.

“The service is a great example of partnership working at its best, with a number of agencies coming together to support the needs of individuals while identifying the root cause of what is causing their behaviour to prevent reoffending.”

Assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Chris Sykes, added: “Following the launch of this service, colleagues have worked tirelessly together with partners to support vulnerable people and it's fantastic to see that people such as David have been supported through all aspects of life to get the help they need.

"This service supports us to reduce reoffending, and ensures we have the right experts to respond to vulnerable people who may have complex needs where we see that custody isn’t always the best place for them.

"Our collaborative work with partners through this service is only set to continue as we strive to support our overall outcome of fewer people becoming victims of crime."

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