Agenda item

Youth Justice - Speech Language and Communication Needs

Report of the Strategic Director, Children’s Social Care and Lifelong Learning


The Committee received a report on the impact of Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) for young people involved with Gateshead Youth Justice Service.


It was noted that all young people involved with Gateshead Youth Justice Service undergo a robust assessment of need.  This assessment considers the young person’s individual needs, including SLCN. However, it was noted that some young people are adept at hiding the true nature of their difficulties, for example by deflecting and not admitting they do not understand and sometimes disguised compliance.


It was reported that in 2015 the Communication Trust reported on SLCN in the Youth Justice System and found that over 60% of young people accessing youth justice services present with SLCN which are largely unrecognised. The research showed that people with SLCN were overrepresented in the justice system.  In some cases these needs are not always assessed early enough in they are not engaged in education or health.


An organisation based in Durham, Clear Cut Communications, specialises in SLCN for young people in the Criminal Justice System and have produced an AssetPlus Screening Support Pack. The service in Gateshead has been working with this screening tool for some years and has recommissioned the training for new staff and as a refresher for other staff. The screening tool allows interventions to be put in place and referrals to be made if necessary.


Further research undertaken by the Royal College of Speech and Language screened all young people subject to the most intensive community sentence. This research found that 65% of the young people required speech and language therapy intervention, 20% scored at the ‘severely delayed’ level on standardised assessment and 6% as ‘very severely delayed’.


A study of Secure Training Centres, which are involved with the most serious and persistent offenders, found that 72% required additional support for SLCN.


In terms of Gateshead, 42% of the current cohort have been identified as having Speech, Language or Communication difficulty. In the cohort of young people who received a court order, 57% had an identified SLCN need. It was acknowledged that this is on par with national research figures. It was also noted that it is concerning that these young people do not have the same cognition as other young people. 


An offer of an appropriate adult is always made to help them understand and Gateshead Youth Service provides a Court Officer to all Magistrate and Crown Court hearings regardless if the young person has SLCN. This allows requirements of intervention to be fully explained to the young person to ensure they do not breach bail conditions and that they understand their conditions.


It was questioned whether there is engagement with education in order to share knowledge. It was confirmed that the service sits on all education panels and Boards and discussions are underway with secondary school senior leaders around permanent exclusions.


It was questioned whether offences are linked to needs and therefore would early assessment improve this. It was confirmed that there is a myriad of factors which could send a child on the trajectory to offend. It was agreed that further information around Family Hubs would be useful to add to the work programme in the future which can look at such factors.


It was also questioned whether there is an opportunity for feedback from service users. It was confirmed that feedback is always looked at and young people experienced in the service help shape and develop the service. Work is ongoing with Digital Me around the voice of the child. Exit interviews are also offered for each child and parent as well as consultation with the Youth Assembly on all documents that are developed.


RESOLVED    -           That the Committee noted the contents of the report and

requested further information on Family Hubs.

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