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Prisons & Probation Ombudsman (UK) Bulletin on Deaths in Approved Premises

14th November 2017

The UK Prisons & Probation Ombudsman has released a Bulletin on independent investigations carried out by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman on the deaths of Approved Premises (APs) residents where there was substance misuse. Approved Premises are premises for people released from prison, and provide support and supervision to them in the community. There are 101 APs in England and Wales, accommodating 2,267 residents. The main roles of AP are to provide support to the resident, to monitor and enforce licence conditions, and to manage issues that the residents face, such as substance misuse.

This Bulletin focused on 29 deaths in APs which met the criteria where that resident’s death was drug related or where they had an identified history of substance misuse. It was found that in a majority of these cases two or more substances were involved, with the most common combination being alcohol and opiates. In 26 cases the residents were on licence. In a small number of cases the resident was not suspected of misusing substances. 11 of the deaths occurred within the first two weeks of release.

The Bulletin finds that people being released from prison are at a significant risk of overdoses of drugs, including alcohol, especially if they relapse back to drug and alcohol use after a period of abstinence or detoxification.

The Bulletin acknowledged that there were some good practices carried out by the AP staff, and Case Studies were used to highlight some examples of good practice. However, it was also portrayed in some of the Case Studies the AP staff did not pay enough attention to the risk of relapse and overdose.

The Bulletin makes a number of recommendations;

  • Improve the drug-testing practices in APs: It is important that the AP Staff make decisions based on the evidence that they have, this includes the AP resident’s full risk information.
  • Introduce a NPS testing policy: The National Probation Service should consider introducing New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) testing and provide sufficient guidance to AP staff.
  •  Enforce a multi-agency partnership approach towards the risk management of AP residents: Staff should ensure that residents risk management information, including the resident’s risk to themselves and of substance misuse, is shared with relevant parties to allow for a good flow of information to appropriate services.
  •  Ensure that AP staff are carrying out effective welfare checks on the residents: The AP staff need to be vigilant when monitoring the residents, ensuring that the staff has sight of the resident and are satisfied that the resident is safe and well during welfare checks.  

The Bulletin constantly calls on the National Probation Service to revise the Approved Premises manual in order to provide sufficient guidance to the AP staff. The Bulletin urges that the National Probation Service to review the AP manual to include up-to-date guidance on management of NPS use and situations where NPS testing would be appropriate, to emphasise the importance of information sharing between appropriate services and agencies, and to provide guidance on welfare checks of residents, especially with regards to substance misuse. 

See Prison & Probation Ombudsman Bulletin on Approved Premises - Substance Misuse here, and see the P&PO Press Release here.

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