A new report, Relative Justice, examines the experiences and views of family members of people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or autism in contact with criminal justice services. Research shows that families can play an important role in helping their relative to live a safe, healthy and productive life. However, families often need support too; for example, to help mitigate the negative consequences that contact with criminal justice services can have on family relationships and on the wellbeing of the family unit. Located in police custody suites, liaison and diversion services are well placed to engage effectively with family members at an early stage, providing support to the vulnerable adult and their family. Describing his adult son’s contact with criminal justice services one father said:
There is, however, a positive side to events over the last year. Paul now has safe accommodation and support from the adult asperger’s psychiatric team… as a family we have been more active in his support, which he is allowing.
The need for effective family support is highlighted in one of the report’s recommendations, which notes that better outcomes and value for money may be achieved by co-commissioning family support services locally, drawing on existing budgets that could be aligned or pooled from different streams of funding. For example, Supporting People legacy programmes; local authority strengthening communities programmes; Community Rehabilitation Company plans; the requirements for family support within existing local programmes for Troubled Families, and Police and Crime Commissioning plans.