Speech and language therapy screening tool in forensic service shows link between communication difficulties and offending behaviour


One outcome measure of forensic services is the rate of re-offending. The author of this review was interested in this outcome, but in particular the contribution to this of speech and language therapy services. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists recommend the involvement of speech and language therapy intervention in support to people to reduce re-offending, and the author set out to analyse referrals to the speech and language therapy department within a forensic support service for adults with learning disabilities.

The author looked at data from the forensic service database for two six month periods, one before the introduction of a screening process, the other after this introduction. Data included the percentage of forensic support service referrals to speech and language therapy and information from lead clinicians about those users of the service who were not referred. The screening process introduced by the department also sought to identify whether professionals believed the communication difficulties of the service user to be linked to their offending behaviour.

What she found was that almost 80% of service users referred to the forensic support service had communication difficulties which were not always being identified.

The completion of the screening tool however helped to identify those communication difficulties. However, despite its introduction, there were limited numbers of returned screens which was a problem both for clinical practice and the research.

She found that around 80% of service users identified as having a communication difficulty were thought to have offending behaviours linked to this.

The author concludes that the review helps to show the importance of speech and language therapy provision and

highlights the perceived link between communication difficulties and offending behaviour.

Speech and language therapy within a forensic support service, McNamara N., in Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 3, 2, 111 – 117

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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