HL Deb 13 January 2003 vol 643 cc5-6WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they accept the recommendation of the chief inspector of prisons in her annual report that a consolidated Prison Service order should be introduced to encapsulate best practice on safer custody; and, if so, when will it be introduced. [HL755]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

Prison Service Order (PSO) 2700 (suicide and self-harm prevention) came into effect on 1 January 2003. It replaces the previous instructions and sets out mandatory requirements. This PSO brings existing policy in line with the direction of the Prison Service's approach to suicide prevention (the move from "awareness" to "prevention") and the broader context (decency, safety, the concept of the healthy prison). It provides prison staff with instructions on identifying prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm and on providing the subsequent care and support for such prisoners.

A guidance document Suicide Prevention Strategies has been issued in conjunction with this PSO. Copies of both have been lodged in the Library. The guidance document provides suggestions in line with the suicide and self-harm prevention strategy based on the Internal Review of Suicide and Self-harm in the Prison Service and incorporates protocols on the use of safer cells and information on the role of Samaritans and prisoner peer supporters. It aims to support the practices and procedures set out in IPSO 2700, while recognising that not all the guidance will be appropriate or feasible or affordable for all establishments. Managers are encouraged to judge which suggestions are appropriate to their type/ category of establishment and carefully to consider which aspects of the advice they believe realistically can be implemented in their establishment within the resources available.

These documents cannot reflect all the learning from the Prison Service's suicide prevention and self-harm reduction programme, which is at its half-way stage. This programme includes a series of projects to address pre-reception, reception and induction arrangements; inter-agency information exchange; prisoner care; detoxification; prisoner peer support, and the learning from investigations into deaths in custody. The three-year programme, which started in April 2001, will be subject to an independent evaluation, and a new generation of replacement PSOs is planned for 2004. It is likely that, as with PSO 2700 and the supporting guide, the distinction between mandatory actions and good practice will be maintained.