To reduce the numbers of people with mental health problems who become victims of crime, and to improve the support available to those who do, Dorset Police, Dorset HealthCare and the Dorset Mental Health Forum have set up the Staying Safe course. Staying Safe aims to support people to identify ways in which they can protect themselves from crime and to develop personal safety plans.
Mind and Victim Support recently produced a report, At Risk, Yet Dismissed, revealing that people with mental health problems are at significantly greater risk of being victims of crime than the general population, and that they experience more adverse effects, have greater support needs and are less likely to have these needs met when they are victimised.
In response to this, the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner obtained funding for a pilot project aiming to reduce the numbers of people with mental health problems who become victims or repeat victims of crime in Dorset, and to improve the support available to those who do. Dorset HealthCare and the Dorset Mental Health Forum are collaborating with the police to achieve these aims and have already made significant progress.
Dorset HealthCare and the Dorset Mental Health Forum collaboratively run the Recovery Education Centre (REC), which now provides the Staying Safe course to help address the problem of criminal victimisation of people with mental health problems. The main aims of the course are to support people to identify ways in which they can protect themselves from crime and to develop personal safety plans. The course content was co-produced and is co-delivered by Dorset Police’s Mental Health Co-Ordinator, a social worker and a Peer Specialist. It is a highly interactive course, with learning occurring through a combination of quizzes, personal narrative and shared experience. The one-day course, like all REC courses, is open to all mental health services users, carers and staff. Each student registers with the REC, develops a personal learning plan, and can then book themselves on to the courses that are relevant for them.
The first Staying Safe course took place on 31 October 2014. The course content will be reviewed and developed, based on feedback from students and staff, before the next course date of 5 March 2015. Future goals include developing an individual workshop for people who are unable to attend this course, as well as personalised education and support around accessing help when victimised.
In addition to providing the Staying Safe course, the project team is putting a number of other things in place to address the criminal victimisation of people with mental health problems. The Trust and the Forum are working to build partnerships with external agencies that provide support to victims of crime, with the ultimate aim of providing a comprehensive guide to support options for people who have been victimised. It will also be important to further develop the partnership between the Trust, the Forum and Dorset Police, and to ensure that all staff within the police and mental health services receive appropriate training to effectively support victims of crime with mental health problems.
In order to demonstrate that the project is achieving its aims, it is important to collate evidence to demonstrate that the number of people who are victims or repeat victims of crime reduce over time. The project team is identifying how many people under Dorset mental health services have been victims of crime in the last year, with a view to tracking patterns of numbers and types of crime over time in the future.
If you'd like to know more about Staying Safe, please contact Lauren Bishop, Bank Project Support and Research Officer, at [email protected].