The five years since the Bradley Report was published have seen concerted action to improve support for people with mental health problems and those with learning difficulties in the criminal justice system, but this will need to be sustained for at least another five years to put the vision into practice nationwide, says a report published today by Centre for Mental Health.

The Bradley Report five years on is the final report of an independent commission chaired by Lord Bradley to review progress since 2009 and identify priorities for further development.

It finds that the commitment of successive governments to the development of liaison and diversion services in police stations and courts has enabled solid progress to be made in putting these vital services in place across the country. But successful implementation of liaison and diversion will depend on local services offering effective and engaging support to people of all ages who are diverted.

The report looks at what needs to be done to put Lord Bradley’s vision into practice across the country. Plans to extend liaison and diversion services nationwide by 2017 are essential to ensure that people with mental health problems or with learning difficulties are identified as early as possible and given the support they need. They will only be effective, however, if local health, social care, housing and other vital services are able to help people who are diverted, many of whom have multiple and complex needs that existing services have been unable to meet.

The report also calls for greater consistency in the provision of mental health support in prisons, for action to speed up transfers from prison to hospital and for training in mental health and learning disability awareness to be provided to frontline staff in all criminal justice services. These are vital to ensure that a person’s needs can be identified and addressed at any stage of the criminal justice system.

Rt Hon Lord Bradley said: “In reviewing the progress that has been made since I published my first report, I have been impressed by the dedication, creativity and perseverance of the people who are striving to make change both nationally and locally. Many of the most innovative and promising services we have seen are run by or in partnership with people who have been through the criminal justice system themselves.

"The vision we set out five years ago was always going to take at least a decade to realise. It is a great credit to those who have supported the vision that we are still making progress despite the pressure on public sector budgets and the many competing calls on scarce resources.

"If we are to make further progress and fulfil the potential of liaison and diversion, we need to see continued commitment from government for at least the next five years. And we need to ensure that every local authority and every clinical commissioning group in England puts in place the support that is necessary to help people who come into contact with the criminal justice system to improve their health and build better lives."