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Health pilot helps reduce self-harm among young offenders

A four-year pilot to improve access to health services for young offenders has helped reduce levels of depression and self-harm, according to latest evaluation.

The Department of Health’s Youth Justice Liaison Diversion (YJLD) pilot scheme took place in six areas and focused on improving access to a range of services, including mental health and speech and language, for those who come in contact with the youth justice system.

Evaluation by University of Liverpool researchers found that "there were statistically significant reductions in overall need, levels of depression and levels of self-harm, and a significant association between improvements and the amount of YJLD contact".

Among the 1,000 young people who were offered support, more than 3,000 "actions", such as involving child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) workers or psychiatrists in their case, were carried out.

The evaluation adds that the pilot also helped organisations across health and youth justice work together better to support young people.

It states: "These actions reflect that the YJLD teams have been particularly successful in developing and consolidating links with the agencies involved with the young people, especially CAMHS, the family, the youth offending team, the police, as well as other key stakeholders such as psychiatrists, schools and social services."

However, researchers say their evaluation efforts were hampered by a lack of available information from professionals involved and a poor response rate to questionnaires among young people involved.

This left researchers unable to draw clear conclusions around the scheme’s value for money to tax payers or whether involvement helped to reduce reoffending rates.

Recommendations include ensuring there is health screening and assessment for all young people that come in contact with the youth justice system. This would help better target support needed for young people, particularly around mental health and speech and communication needs.

Graham Beech, strategic development director at crime reduction charity Nacro, said the pilot represented an important step change. "What’s clear from the evaluation is that the pilots tested gaps in provision and focused research on the most appropriate interventions to help young people with mental health, developmental and speech and communication difficulties.

"Overall, the findings are encouraging. They demonstrate that getting in early is essential and responding to multiple and complex health needs is just as critical."

Areas that took part in the pilot, that took place between 2008 to March this year, were: Lewisham, Halton and Warrington, Peterborough, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelesa, South Tees and Wolverhampton.

This article was taken from www.cypnow.co.ukhttp://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/1072494