Poor language is linked to poor behaviour even in very young children. 2 in 3 language delayed 3 year olds have behaviour problems

Youth Justice programme


Research shows that at least 60% of young people in the youth justice system have speech, language and communication needs (within the general population this is around 10% of children and young people). If the needs of these people are not supported there can be profound implications:

  • A  young person may not be able to communicate effectively in
    a police interview, a court appearance, a meeting with a Youth Offending Team or being held under a custodial sentence
  • A young person may breach the terms of his/her order, simply because he/she doesn't understand the language, days of the week or time
  • Because a young person may have the listening and understanding skills of an 8 year old, they may not be able to follow programmes designed to support their education and wellbeing, which are often aimed at GCSE Level


We ran a programme from 2009 - 2012 to meet a significant awareness and training gap in the youth justice workforce around speech, language and communication, identified in the Bercow Review (2008).

The programme was supported by the Youth Justice Board and offered training, resources and awareness-raising to the youth justice workforce and aimed to support all those that work in the youth justice sector to better support the communication needs of the young people they work with.

Funding for this programme came to an end in 2012 and the Trust is no longer able to offer training in this area. Resources still available around youth justice and SLCN are available below.

Training programmes on SLCN for youth justice settings are available from some of our partners including; 

  • The Royal College of Speech Language Therapists' The Box training  here
  • I CAN's Talk about Talk training here
  • Elklan's SLCN training for those working with vulnerable young people here

Across 2014/15 we have worked on elements of the SEND Reforms which apply to youth justice settings and supported in ensuring the legislation and statutory guidance achieves the best possible outcomes for the 60% + young people in the youth justice system who have SLCN. Useful signposting for youth justice settings around the SEND Reforms and their application in relevant youth accommodation is available on our website here


Resources and evidence   

  • The SEND reforms and SLCN in the Youth Justice Sector in England - survey findings  - The Communication Trust and colleagues from the University of Sheffield, and Birmingham City University, ran a survey throughout June 2015 to find out more about how the youth justice sector across England is responding to the needs of young people who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) within the reformed SEND system.

    The findings from the survey are bought together in this report. The report highlights existing good practice, but also makes clear the additional support and resources those working in the youth justice sector would benefit from to better support young people with SLCN through the reformed SEND system. 
  • In November 2014, The Trust hosted a round table event with key stakeholders from across the youth justice and SLCN sectors.
    Doing justice to speech language and communication needs brings together the key messages and recommendations from this event. It aims to provide a platform from which practitioners, services and policy makers can think about the different approaches, challenges and opportunities to improve outcomes for children and young people with SLCN in the youth justice system. Access the report here.

    The report and event were funded by the Helen Hamlyn Trust.
  • Sentence Trouble is a guide to help improve understanding and communication with children and young people, particular those with communication needs. It has been written for everyone that works or volunteers in Youth Offending Teams (YOT), Secure Children's Homes, Secure Training Centres and Young Offenders Institutions (YOI). Access it here.
  • The Sentence Trouble film was produced to improve the skills and confidence of youth offending teams, lawyers, secure estate staff, magistrates and the police so they are able to recognise SLCN and reflect on their own communication skills.

    The film makes a strong case for better communication skills within the youth justice workforce and calls for changes in the law to ensure young defendants with SLCN have the same rights as witnesses to an intermediary, who can support them to communicate with a police officer or judge.

    You can view the film on the Sentence Trouble website, www.sentencetrouble.info/film

  • Posters and postcards -  We have developed six handy top tips resources which offers strategies for communicating effectively with the young people you work with.

    Use them as handouts or put them on noticeboards as a handy reminder for better communication.

    Please click here to access them.

  • The Sentence Trouble website was developed as an online resource for the youth justice workforce. It includes information on how to recognised a communication difficulty, advice and guidance on what to do next and further useful resources.

    To visit the website please let go www.sentencetrouble.info