HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc247-9W
Mrs. Gillan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what factors have been identified as accounting for the increase of self-harming incidents in prisons between 1999 and 2003; and if he will make a statement. [154176]

Paul Goggins

[holding answer 10 February 2004]: In December 2002 new procedures for reporting self-injury were introduced in prisons in England and Wales. The evidence suggests that much of the increase in reported self-harm in 2003 may result from this rather than an actual increase in the incidence of self-harm

Beyond that, the reasons for any increase in prisoner self-harm may be related to the fact that the prison population includes a large number of prisoners with a combination of psychiatric disorders, alcohol and drug dependency, family background and relationship problems, histories of self-harm and previous abuse, all of which raise their risk of suicide and self-harm. Additionally, the current operating environment is very challenging because an increased prisoner population and movement of prisoners puts a strain on resources and makes it more challenging to prevent suicides and self-harm. Long-term trends suggest that self-inflicted deaths have been increasing since 1988, broadly in line with the increase in prison population.

A number of intervention strategies have been introduced into establishments for people who self-harm. These include counselling, support groups, and specialised psychological interventions. A network of establishments has been set up to develop interventions, facilitate evaluation and share good practice, and guidance to staff on managing people who self-harm has been circulated to establishments.