A pioneering scheme to help identify and improve speech, language and basic communication skills – as well as detecting special educational needs (SEN) - has resulted in a marked reduction in crimes committed by young people in Milton Keynes.
Launched 10 years ago, the program is run by the local Youth Offending Team, part of Milton Keynes Council.
In that time the YOT has helped steer hundreds of young people away from re-offending, by assessing their basic learning and communication skills, and in many cases identifying hitherto undetected SEN.
Speech and language therapists work to assess the needs of all young people referred to the YOT, which means that staff working with them are able to adapt the way they work to ensure it’s effective. The assessed needs are also shared with schools so that the children can be appropriately supported in education as well.
This enables the child to get formal recognition of their needs and can result in them being on SEN Support or having an Education Health and Care Plan.
The long term impact of this methodology has been to lead to significant reduction in reoffending so that the results for Milton Keynes YOT are consistently in the top 10 nationally, and have been as high as second place out of 143.
This approach has been led by Diz Minnitt, operational manager with the YOT, who worked with national experts in the studies of children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, and the link to offending.
Diz said: “Many of the young people who come through our doors have very poor communication skills, processing problems, or other special educational needs that have not been identified in education.
“So they are starting life with a huge disadvantage – they can struggle to process information and communicate effectively, which means they suffer from frustration, leading to behavioural difficulties, and in a busy classroom staff may not have the time to look beyond the behaviour to consider why the child is acting the way they are .
However, staff training can dramatically turn the young persons’ fortunes around.
Diz added: “These needs are often called Hidden Disabilities as they are difficult to spot and assess but once they are identified it can transform the way the children can be supported and their long term achievements and help them avoid further offending . If identified early it can prevent children becoming involved in offending at all”.
Councillor Zoe Nolan, Cabinet member for Children and Families said: “I am delighted with the work the YOS have been doing on this area for the last ten years and the results speak for themselves. This makes such a difference not only to the young people and their families but by reducing re offending they are making a real difference to the communities they serve. I congratulate them all.”
To help prevent children becoming involved in offending behaviour Milton Keynes Youth Offending Team, in partnership with Milton Keynes Educational Psychology Service, is offering secondary school SENCO’s and key pastoral staff access to free training to help recognise understand and work with children with speech language and communication needs and other special educational needs.
To register interest to access the training please email firstname.lastname@example.org