The Government takes the mental health and wellbeing of prisoners very seriously. We recognise that anxieties regarding Covid-19 and the regime restrictions required for infection control may exacerbate mental health needs and increase the risk of self-harm among prisoners, we are continuing to work to mitigate this as far as possible.
In response to Covid-19, visits have unfortunately been suspended and people in prison are spending more time in their cells. They are, however, being given access to services including telephone contact with loved ones, access to health services and where possible time in the open air. The Samaritans phone service is being kept available at this time, and we are working with the Samaritans to ensure that the Listener peer support scheme continues to function effectively. We are continuing to provide care and support to people at risk of self-harm or suicide through ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork) case management. For those with severe mental health issues, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the process for referral, assessment and transfer to mental health hospitals continues in as normal a way as possible.
As of week commencing 23rd March, all Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) have been operating under the obligations within their Exceptional Delivery Models (EDM). As a result CRCs have adapted to an alternative way of working, albeit on a temporary basis, in order to adhere to the social distancing measures announced by the Prime Minister. All CRCs have a responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of their service users during the pandemic. The EDMs are subject to robust assurance and compliance activities, which are carried out by the Authority on a regular basis to ensure that CRCs continue to operate to their contracted obligations and continue to deliver front line probation services to protect the public.
We have invested an additional £22m per annum over the remaining life of the CRC contracts to deliver an enhanced Through the Gate resettlement service to people leaving prison to prepare them for release. The enhanced service includes the requirement that CRCs complete specific, tailored, tasks to help prisoners to secure and maintain settled accommodation, gain employment and manage debt and their financial affairs. During the Covid period most of this support is being provided remotely after CRCs invested in greater use of mobile technology to maintain levels of contact with offenders in the community in a safe and efficient manner. After a prison sentence, service users are supervised and supported by Probation Officers in the Community.