Ogmore MS Huw Irranca-Davies and colleagues met with representatives of the Welsh Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists who were at the Senedd calling on MSs to support their campaign for therapists to be embedded in every Youth Justice Service across Wales.
Speech, language, and communication needs can be hidden, and not immediately obvious and young people can become adept at hiding their difficulties. By the time many enter the system many will have developed coping strategies to mask the impact of their needs which are subsequently overlooked.
60% of young people in contact with the youth justice system have difficulties with speech, language, or communication, yet only 5% of young people had their needs identified prior to entry to the system. 40% of young people in contact with the system find it difficult to access and benefit from verbal interventions and programmes.
Many can also portray poor communication styles that can make them appear as bored and lacking co-operating and less credible. Directly impacting their legal case as 80% of magistrates have said that the attitude and demeanour of a young person influences their sentencing decision.
RCSLT Wales state young people deserve a voice in the justice system and want to ensure young people who have offended or are at risk of offending can access a speech and language therapist so they have a fair and equal chance.
Following the event Huw Irranca-Davies MS said: “It was good to meet with members RCSLT Wales to discuss the barriers many children and young people face in the youth justice system purely because of communication break-down.
The important work they do in identifying and supporting young people with speech, language and communication skills is essential and can help towards avoiding behavioural issues which could lead to reoffending. I support their call that speech and language therapists should be available in the every youth justice system throughout Wales.”