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Mental health outcomes for people under probation supervision

New report

04 September 2020
Mental health outcomes for people under probation supervision

HM Inspectorate of Probation has published a report highlighting the importance of maximising positive mental health outcomes for people under probation supervision. The report provides an overview of current research literature into the barriers to achieving this, and practical suggestions for how to overcome these barriers. 

There is a high prevalence of mental illness in probation populations, with two out of five people under probation supervision experiencing at least one mental illness, and many experiencing a dual-diagnosis, which means they also have a substance abuse problem.  

Potential barriers to maximising positive mental health outcomes include:

  • Many people do not access mental health services until they are at crisis point
  • Often people under probation supervision report poor past experiences of accessing care, and mistrust of healthcare staff
  • Low levels of literacy, including health literacy, which enables individuals to gain access to, understand, and use information to promote and maintain good health
  • A lack of appropriate provision for complex needs, which can result in people falling through gaps between service provision or being unable to access care in a timely fashion
  • Complexity of the healthcare landscape, which can be difficult to navigate both for those under probation supervision and criminal justice staff

Steps which can be taken to maximise positive mental health outcomes include:

  • Improving understanding by improving the literacy (including about health) of the probation population, and ensuring that professionals share information in accessible language
  • Improving access to data about the mental health needs of people under probation supervision, and the extent to which they are being met by existing service provision
  • Increasing integration between health, social care and probation services to simplify the health landscape which has to be navigated

This report also notes that probation staff have had to rapidly change their practice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is little research to show the impact of these changes on the mental health of those under supervision.

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