Lincoln’s intervention team: What happens when help is refused

Lincoln’s intervention team “offers the option of a way out” for the city’s homeless and vulnerable, but that help is not always taken.

The City of Lincoln Council’s scheme, nine months into operation, patrols the streets maintaining public safety and offering support to those on the streets who suffer from mental health problems and drug abuse.

It was launched after a spate of drug abuse and anti-social behaviour across the city and was tasked with tackling the “complexity” of the problem.

Armed with anti-social behaviour, Addaction and mental health support workers, the team looks to offer a way out for those who may be “entrenched” in their lifestyles or suffering from other issues.

Francesca Bell, public protection, anti-social behaviour and licensing service manager at the council, said the team offered people a “choice” to escape anti-social behaviour.

The city council’s intervention team was launched in October 2018 after a spate of drug abuse across the city. It patrols the streets every week. Picture: Steve Smailes.

The offer of help has been taken by 29 people for substance misuse and 39 for mental health support since the project started.

But, the support is not always accepted.

Out on the streets

On an afternoon patrol, a reporter joined the team who sported visible burgundy uniforms and radios which are used in case police support is needed to deal with aggressive people.

The team works flexible hours and often patrol the city on a morning paying a visit to “hotspots” such as St Peters Passage, which has since been gated off, the Brayford and  Free School Lane.

Yvette Hall, team co-ordinator, is one of the original members of the project and has been with the team since it was founded.

She and her colleagues, Kelly Richmond and Cheryl Fisher, are called into action right on the doorstep of the council where a man who has recently become homeless is offered mental health and housing support.

The intervention team offer support to a homeless man outside City Hall. Picture: Steve Smailes.

“He was obviously really upset and emotional about the position he was in,” said Yvette.

Francesca said it was important that the team was filled with “people who could talk to people” and who have a “thick skin”.

“It’s about building trust and rapport,” she said.

Further down the High Street, the team approach another man who the team have dealt with since the scheme was launched in October 2018.

“He is one we are having to take to court,” said Yvette.

“We have run out of options with him.”

The man was a “rare case” who had been offered support but refused it and continues to beg on the High Street.

“He is perfectly polite, he just does not want to stop begging,” added Yvette.

“It’s a shame for us when we try so hard to help.”

City of Lincoln Council intervention team (from left) Kelly Richmond, Cheryl Fisher and Yvette Hall. Picture: Steve Smailes.

While the team’s main purpose is to be on the frontline in reducing anti-social behaviour through support, it does have enforcement powers.

A public space protection order is already in place in the city centre, but the team has other powers such as community protection notices and criminal behaviour orders.

Since it was launched, the scheme has issued 40 written warnings, 10 legal notices, assisted with completing four prosecutions and secured one criminal behaviour order.

But Francesca said the enforcement is a “last resort” for the team and would only be used if every other option is “exhausted”.

“Not everybody will accept help and that is a difficult pill to swallow,” she said.

“We can’t make people accept our help, but we can persistently offer it.”

Pushing the boundary of the city centre drinking ban

As well as offering support, the team has other duties such as cleaning up needles and other paraphernalia on the streets.

“It happens more than it should,” the team said.

A needle found on Lincoln’s High Street. The intervention team cleans up needs and other paraphernalia. Picture: Steve Smailes.

This can be often found around “hotspots” in the city, but the problem is moving further away from the centre.

Cheryl Fisher, anti-social behaviour worker for the team, points out that people can often be found on Portland Street, around the YMCA or further down the High Street.

It is because of the public space protection order, she added, which bans drinking and drug use in the city centre.

The city council voted to renew the ban back in February 2018.

The burgundy uniforms worn by the City of Lincoln Council intervention team. Picture: Steve Smailes.

Francesca said the order was up for renewal in 2021, but added that the boundary of the order and where in the city the ban extends to is a problem.

“It becomes more difficult to enforce and resource,” she said.

The team help to enforce the ban and can call on the police as well to help.

Intervening in the future

Lincoln’s intervention team has funding to run until 2020.

Senior city councillors ensured the scheme would continue by investing £65,000 in the project for the next year.

But, for the team, the future is uncertain.

“It would be better if we were not needed,” said Yvette.

For Francesca, the answer is in finding another way to tackle anti-social behaviour through other partnerships and picking up people “sooner”.

“In many ways, it would be great if we could sustain the team,” she said.

“But what would be even better for services and more so for people at the heart of the project is if we didn’t need a team to start with.”


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