Last week, the excellent UK forensic and learning disabilities network, one of a range of networks run throughout the UK to provide information to people supporting people with learning disabilities, circulated a note about a report from west Yorkshire. Although a local report, the findings have a wider relevance. The report was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Probation Trust and set out to review the evidence on the probation journey experienced by people with a hidden learning disability or limited English. The review was carried out by background research and interviews with staff and service users.
The review team found a good deal of evidence to support the notion that people with learning disability and learning difficulties are over-represented in the criminal justice system
The review team pointed out however that the probation service did not have a systematic approach to ensuring such people are provided with an accessible and equitable service.
They identified a range of barriers facing people with learning disability including:
- misunderstanding due to communication breakdown,
- ineffective assessment,
- difficulty relating to people of the opposite sex and/or working in groups
- multiple needs arising from a life time of social exclusion.
The review team make a number of recommendations to help bring about change, including the need to identify communications needs and barriers at initial assessment; improving training for front line staff and the creation of designated champion for each district/activity/hostel who could receive additional training and provide a point of advice for colleagues
In addition there are recommendations about improving accessibility of information and improving co-ordination with other criminal justice agencies and partners in the third sector, NHS and social services
The authors conclude that there is good practice and a range of useful resources in the criminal justice system and call on colleagues in the locality to rise to the challenge of overcoming the barriers identified in the review