Following recommendations made by the Communities and Culture Committee (Welsh Government, 2010) the Youth Justice Board Cymru commissioned a report into how young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCNs) were dealt with in the youth justice system. A review of literature as well as practice elsewhere in the UK was undertaken and this revealed how SLCNs impacted negatively on a young person‟s ability to engage effectively with youth justice. Additionally it was evident that SLCNs are extremely widespread among young people who have offended and that these needs often co-occur with other indicators of disadvantage.

A series of interviews and focus groups was undertaken with representatives from the 18 Youth Offending Teams across Wales. A range of individuals were contacted; ranging from YOT Managers to Education Workers and even Speech and Language Therapists already working in the service. The findings of this review revealed that SLCNs are extremely diverse in nature and that these are often accompanied by other complex needs. Consideration of SLCNs is vital to engagement of young people in the work of the YOS but the diversity of the needs suggests access to a range of specialist professions may be necessary to deliver individualised interventions.

Where Speech and Language Therapists are embedded in a service, they provide additional benefits (e.g. delivering training to other professionals in healthcare, education or court settings) as well as support for referrals and ongoing advice/mentoring to staff and we recommend that this continues. However it is not clear that all YOTs would require such specialist services to be embedded and recommendations are made to support YOT Managers in making informed choices about the services
they use. For this reason, recommendations are made about the definition of SLCNs, the quality of screening/assessment tools and the training required for YOT staff in developing appropriate
interventions with these groups.

As well as discussions about service provision within the YOS, the results of this review revealed some inconsistencies in access to services outside of youth justice. Therefore recommendations are
made about the continuity of service provision and the development of early interventions to identify SLCNs. It was clear from our review that there are young people who have a SLCN identified for the first time when they come into contact with a YOT. This is too late for many young people and undermines the efficacy of any intervention. Therefore recommendations are made about how children and young people are screened outside the service and how successful outcomes of interventions should be measured.

Overall the results of this project support the general conclusion that: young people‟s SLCNs need to be seen in a broader context of engagement with the YOS and as part of a wider set of needs including mental health, family relationships, engagement with school, employment and training and substance use. Specifically, effective communication with young people associated with youth justice is crucial to developing interventions that address the core aim of reducing re-offending.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMinistry of Justice
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 226499