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A trial mental health project for ex-servicemen at HMP Wandsworth has proved so successful that the initiative is being rolled out to three more prisons across London. 




Run by the London Veterans’ Service (LVS) and funded by NHS England, the In-Reach scheme was launched last July. Since then, the impact of the project has been so positive that it has received a grant from the Armed Forces Covenant; in turn, this has enabled it to be extended to Brixton and Thameside prisons, as well as the Isis Young Offenders’ Institution in Greenwich.

The initiative’s lead clinical psychologist Dr Sue Ferrier explained why the scheme is so important for veteran offenders, who make up as much as 17 per cent of prisoners. 

She said: “Many of the characteristics of ex-servicemen offenders are similar to those in the civilian population.

“However, their experiences in the military and in the battlefield, and associated mental health and substance misuse problems, have been shown to increase their risk of offending, and in particular violent offending.

“The impact of leaving the armed forces and starting in the civilian world, and issues of stigma and barriers to seeking help, further contribute to ex-servicemen ending up in the criminal justice system.”

Through the In-Reach project, custody support officers, offender healthcare professionals and clinical nurse specialists work together to identify veterans with mental health issues. These offenders are then given bespoke, multi-agency care packages, signposting them to appropriate support services, both in custody and on their release from prison. The needs of their families are also taken into consideration.

As well as mental health problems, issues surrounding substance misuse, housing, welfare and employment are also tackled through the project. 

The trial in Wandsworth, which was run in collaboration with the Camden & Islington and South London & Maudsley NHS foundation trusts, resulted in an increased number of ex-servicemen being identified as needing support. More connections than normal were therefore made between these individuals and external services that could help them in the future, proving just how valuable the right mental health support is. 

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