Charity officials have teamed up with police and mental health chiefs in a bid to improve support for vulnerable people while they are held in police custody.
Representatives of the Samaritans, Norfolk and Suffolk Police and the counties’ NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) have signed what they say is a “ground-breaking” agreement to provide extra help to detainees.
The memorandum of understanding will enable Samaritans volunteers to talk to people who are being in cells at police investigation centres (PICs) across the two counties.
The charity’s branches in King’s Lynn, Bury St Edmunds, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Lowestoft and Norwich are taking part in the programme.
People can also be referred to Samaritans branches after their release from custody, while police and health staff will be given briefings on the Samaritans’ work.
Chief Inspector John Colbert, head of custody for Norfolk and Suffolk Police, said: “Not all people arrested and brought into custody are criminals and there are many factors which can influence an individual to commit an offence or be detained by police.
“A number of the people who find themselves in custody are quite often at a crisis point in their lives.
“By signing this new memorandum, we are offering more avenues of opportunity to prevent re-offending, or in the worst case someone taking their own life.”
Keith King, of the King’s Lynn Samaritans, said: “As this is a particularly vulnerable time for those leaving custody, this partnership will help provide emotional support when they need it most.”
Ian Trenholm, of the NSFT’s liaison and diversion unit, added: “This is a great example of partnership working which will benefit individuals in crisis, and demonstrates how we are focused on supporting people to improve their health and wellbeing, and reduce offending behaviours.”
Officials say the programme is intended to enhance the existing support schemes available at PICs.
The agreement has also been signed by the Norwich-based mental health charity, Julian Support.
Rachel Omori, from the charity, said: “We are confident that this partnership between voluntary and statutory sector organisations across both counties will ensure that people receive the right support when they need it. This is a significant achievement.”