Communication difficulty awareness training for youth offending staff could drastically improve outcomes for offenders
Thanet’s youth offending team works primarily with 10–17 year olds, largely from disadvantaged backgrounds. It offers support to prevent them reoffending.
But staff were having problems communicating with some of the young people. “We realised that often young people did not understand what was being asked of them or when they needed to come and see particular workers,” explains Simon Bound, workforce development coordinator at Thanet’s youth offending team. “We were not communicating with them in a way that made sense to them. We also realised they were getting into trouble with the police because, for example, they did not fully understand the conditions of their supervision orders. They had problems with time management and organisation.”
The team sought help from Raising Your Game. All staff have received the project’s Talk about Talk communication difficulty awareness training, as well as learning disability awareness training from Mencap. The aim was to help staff identify young people with communication needs to refer to the Raising Your Game project. Plus, they wanted to ensure that all young people could understand and were able to comply with their orders.
During the training, the team looked at how it currently communicates with young people with speech, language and communication needs and how to improve its practice. “The training really made an impact, especially with the contribution from Raising Your Game’s young people,” says Simon, “having them involved in delivering the training made a difference. It was really powerful and reinforced the need to target services at young people with communication difficulties.”
Raising Your Game equipped staff with a range of techniques that they can use to work with young offenders with speech, language and communication needs. The staff now feel much more confident in recognising, working with and helping young people with these sorts of communication difficulties.
Staff will break down instructions and concepts into smaller chunks when working with some young people and check they understand them. They are mindful of the difficulties these young people have in understanding long sentences.
The training has also helped to initiate changes to written communication methods. “We are now reviewing the communication documents that are given to young people,” says Simon, “we’re looking at how we can make them more accessible. One young man, for example, now has an intervention plan and prison timetable that uses images, as well as written words, which makes it less intimidating and overwhelming for him.”
As a result of working with Raising Your Game, the Thanet youth offending team is now working with the local NHS trust to assess young people for communication needs. They have also employed a speech and language therapist.
To find out more about this training email: firstname.lastname@example.org