General

Belles Out ‘n’ About! – Care Not Custody Reception

On Thursday 10th July something amazing happened. (aside from me managing to get the train/tubes on my own ;))

The WI held a Care not Custody Campaign Reception in Westminster alongside many charities such as The Prison Reform Trust, Together (a mental health charity) and many more. It was an honour to be invited alongside President Joanne and fellow Belle Deborah, not only to be part of something so spectacular but because it is a cause so close to many hearts including mine.

In June 2008, the WI passed a resolution calling for an end to the inappropriate detention of people with mental health problems. More than two-thirds of all prison inmates have two or more mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Many have a history of attempted suicide and self-harm, while significant numbers have severe and ongoing problems such as schizophrenia or personality disorders. Too many people are getting inadequate mental healthcare in prisons when they could have been diverted to hospitals or community based alternatives. The NFWI is calling for people with mental health problems to get the right care for their condition via more diversion schemes and better community mental health services offering safe alternatives to imprisonment. (More info here…)
The campaign has come a long way since it’s 2008 launch, and we were here not only to celebrate the successes to far but also to continue to drive it forward. 

NFWI Chair, Janice Langley, opened the evening with a fantastic speech, reminding us all how this campaign came to be “Care not Custody is special to us because it arose from tragic experiences of one of our members after her son committed suicide in custodyHer experience highlighted a systematic and wide-spread failing of some of our most vulnerable citizens” We then heard how £25,000,000 was being funded for on-going development of liaison and diversion services, and how much improvement has been made thus far. We heard from Chief Superintendent Christopher Bourlet, Metropolitan Police Service and the trial of NHS England liaison and diversion (‘street triage’) meaning that people who had problems got better access to correct care they needed. Sean Duggan, CEO ealth discussed the Bradley Commission and The Bradley Report five years on.

Most inspirational however, was the tales from Service Users, Graham Keeton & Adellah Snape those who have been part of the system and how they have managed to turn their lives around. (I may have got something in my eyes at this point)

After this The Home Secretary, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP took the floor she stated “The WI has a formidable reputation for standing your ground and working together to get things done” and to a rather large chuckle “And – dare I say it – you are also known for taking no nonsense from politicians!”

She went on to state that “It is an issue that I care deeply about. Not just because I want to ensure police time is spent wisely chasing criminals and cutting crime, but because I think it is vital that vulnerable people receive the help and support they need.” 
we then heard some amazing statistics on how the service is improving, May closed with,

The police cannot, and should not, do the job of healthcare professionals. People experiencing a mental health crisis deserve a proper healthcare setting. People with mental health issues who are arrested or held in custody, deserve a proper assessment of their needs and the appropriate care and support.

By working together across government, and with our local partners, that is what the government is working to achieve.
I wish you every success with this evening’s event and with the excellent work of the Care Not Custody Coalition.” Full Speech available here…

The evening was a fantastic success, I’d like to thank everyone who made it a possibility and I feel we all are the future of the WI… Watch out world, here come the Blue Belles 😉

Laura P²(Photographs by Elliott Franks 2014)