1 Lord Harries of Pentregarth debates involving the Scotland Office

Wed 31st Jan 2024

Prisons: Suicides

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce the number of suicides in prisons in England and Wales.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Stewart of Dirleton) (Con)
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My Lords, every self-inflicted death in custody is a tragedy. We continue to do all that we can to improve the safety of prisoners. Our vision, set out in the Prisons Strategy White Paper, includes plans to make prisons safer for staff and prisoners. We have also announced additional funding to expand the prison workforce to enable a greater focus on creating a regime that supports safety.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. In the 12 months to last September, there were 93 deaths by suicide in prison, an increase of 22% on the previous year. This is paralleled by the huge increase in self-harming in prison, which is at 10 times the rate of the wider community. One of the factors in this is of course the extent of mental health problems among prisoners—nine out of 10—and the slowness with which they are referred to the appropriate medical services. What steps have the Government taken to speed up the process whereby those with mental health problems are pointed in the direction of those who can offer them help, so that they do not spend so long in isolation in segregated units?

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait Lord Stewart of Dirleton (Con)
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My Lords, we published the National Partnership Agreement for Health and Social Care for England on 23 February 2023, setting out a shared priority to deliver safe, decent and effective care, and improve health outcomes for people in prison and on probation. As part of the measures we have taken, new prison officers are trained in measures to assess and identify persons potentially at risk. The existing cohort of prison officers is receiving additional training, as understanding of the complex nature of this problem develops. There are increased facilities for sharing knowledge so that individual insights are passed between prison staff, the medical and psychological staff assisting them and the prisoners themselves, because we have measures to allow prisoners to mentor one another.