Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Equality and Social Justice Committee05/12/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain MS|
|Jane Dodds MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Ken Skates MS|
|Sarah Murphy MS|
|Sioned Williams MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Adam Edwards||Uwch-ymarferydd Nyrsio a Chynghorydd Iechyd Meddwl, Arweinydd Fforensig y Gwasanaeth Iechyd Meddwl Plant a’r Glasoed a Rheolwr Tîm y Gwasanaeth Troseddau Ieuenctid|
|Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Mental Health Adviser, Forensic CAMHS Lead and YOS Team Manager|
|Alison Davies||Prif Swyddog, Gwasanaeth Cyfiawnder Ieuenctid Castell-nedd Port Talbot|
|Principal Officer, Neath Port Talbot Youth Justice Service|
|Amanda Blakeman||Prif Gwnstabl, Heddlu Gogledd Cymru|
|Chief Constable, North Wales Police|
|Amanda Turner||Rheolwr Gweithrediadau, Gwasanaeth Cyfiawnder Ieuenctid Castell-nedd Port Talbot|
|Operations Manager, Neath Port Talbot Youth Justice Service|
|Darren Trollope||Pennaeth Cynllunio a Chyngor, Bwrdd Cyfiawnder Ieuenctid|
|Head of Planning and Advice, Youth Justice Board|
|Dr Dave Williams||Seiciatrydd Ymgynghorol y Glasoed a Phlant, Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Aneurin Bevan|
|Consultant Adolescent and Child Psychiatrist, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board|
|Eleri Thomas||Dirprwy Gomisiynydd Heddlu a Throseddu Gwent|
|Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent|
|Emma Wools||Dirprwy Gomisiynydd Heddlu a Throseddu De Cymru|
|Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales|
|Kim Jenkins||Therapydd Lleferydd ac Iaith Tra Arbenigol ac Arweinydd Clinigol ar gyfer Cyfiawnder Ieuenctid, Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Bae Abertawe|
|Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist and Clinical Lead for Youth Justice, Swansea Bay University Health Board|
|Pippa Cotterill||Pennaeth Swyddfa Cymru, Coleg Brenhinol y Therapyddion Lleferydd ac Iaith|
|Head of Wales Office, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Angharad Roche||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rachael Davies||Ail Glerc|
|Sam Mason||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 11:45.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 11:45.
Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to welcome you to the Equality and Social Justice Committee, and this afternoon we're conducting an inquiry into the experience of young people with speech, language and communication needs in the criminal justice system. This is a bilingual meeting, so translation is available simultaneously, and I—
Sorry, Chair, I think we're struggling to hear you. Sorry, Chair.
Thank you for pointing that out. Could somebody—?
ICT, can you jump in?
Okay. Can you hear me now, Jane? We'll just take a break while we sort this out outside the public domain.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:46 ac 11:47.
The meeting adjourned between 11:46 and 11:47.
Welcome to the Equality and Social Justice Committee. I hope you'll be able to hear me, and also the simultaneous translation that is available.
We are conducting a one-day inquiry into the experience of young people with speech, language and communication needs in the criminal justice system. I’m very pleased to welcome Pippa Cotterill, head of the Wales office for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and Kim Jenkins, highly specialist speech and language therapist, and clinical lead for youth justice at Swansea Bay University Health Board, in the room. Virtually we’re joined by Dr Dave Williams, consultant in adolescent and child psychotherapy, and Adam Edwards, advanced nurse practitioner and mental health adviser, and forensic child and adolescent mental health services lead and youth offending service team manager.
Thanks, all of you, for taking the time to come and talk to us today. I’m going to start off by asking you about your excellent paper—the college—about 60 per cent of young people in the youth justice system having speech, language and communication needs. Could you just briefly say why you think the prevalence of this is so high amongst this group of young people?
Thank you, Chair. Yes, absolutely. Sixty per cent, and even up to 90 per cent it could be, of children and young people in youth justice services have speech, language and communication needs. That covers a wide range of difficulties. Within speech and language skills, there are attention and listening skills, skills in interaction, understanding spoken language, using spoken language—speech—as well as social interaction, and they would all come under—. If a child or young person has difficulties in those areas, that would cover speech, language and communication needs. So, I think that difficulty in this area, as outlined in the youth justice blueprint, is one of the vulnerabilities that often leads to crime. If we think that children with speech, language and communication needs might not be asking for clarification if they don’t understand something, they might become disengaged in education, and some of those vulnerabilities, both in their interaction and in their skills and abilities from an academic perspective, as well as part of social interaction, could be reasons as to why some of those things are. So, absolutely, it is a very, very high prevalence—much, much higher than in the general population—and the real concern is that those aren't being recognised and identified prior to that. My colleague, Kim, absolutely could talk about that identification, but, yes, absolutely, that prevalence is very high, which is very concerning.
You said they 'might' become disengaged from education. If they haven't got the reading level required for secondary education, it's almost certain they're going to become disengaged, is it not? Kim, do you want to just respond to that?
Yes, a lot of them do become disengaged, but some schools, I suppose, have got different programmes of work—nurture units that they can go to, or more vocational type courses that a lot of them thrive at. More hands-on things like construction or mechanics are the types of vocational studies that they really, really enjoy, because there's less reading and writing. And, as Pippa said, a lot of them are—. Their needs aren't correctly identified. A lot of them are seen in school as behavioural difficulties, and I think if schools and other professionals knew more about speech and language and could correctly identify that their behaviour is possibly due to difficulties in understanding and communicating, then they might be referred into core services as well.
Thank you for that additional background information. So, given that we're talking about 60 to 90 per cent of all the young people who are coming into contact with the youth justice system, how confident are you that there's a shared recognition and understanding of the needs of these young people?
I think it varies hugely across different areas. There are some areas in Wales where there are speech and language therapists involved in the youth justice estate, the services, and they're able, through training the wider workforce, to support them to identify those needs that those children and young people have. There is the Asset Plus that screens those, and so they're able to look at those. But, if there isn't a speech and language therapist within that team, then, whilst they can refer into core services, having a speech and language therapist means that they're on hand, really, to have a conversation with the case worker and help the case manager to understand what the young person's needs are.
So, I would say that, in some places, there's a high ratio of shared recognition and understanding of needs, but I would say that that's very, very variable across different services, and what we really need to eliminate is that variability so that, for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, there is always that shared recognition and understanding of those needs.
So, you offer free training to anybody who's in the youth justice sector. How good is the take-up across the piece?
So, there is free training available from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. There's training called The Box and there's training called Mind your Words, but we don't have records. We recommend to youth justice services that they do those, but we don't record when they do that; they can do that themselves. But, we always, as part of that, recommend that they contact their local speech and language therapy NHS services so that they can make those links, because, in isolation, that would be one-off training. I think what we want to see is that training at a more detailed level so that there can be further conversations with speech and language therapists, and also that it's part of continuous professional development for those working in those areas, so that it's not just one-off training that happens.
Adam Edwards, as you're the youth offending service team manager, how confident are you that your teams are aware of the prevalence of these problems?
Firstly, I'm not actually the manager for the youth offending services; I'm the manager for the clinical nurse specialists that are seconded to each youth offending service. My experience of it is that where we have a speech and language therapist present in the youth offending services, there's a lot greater awareness, there's a lot greater uptake of training. So, the speech and language therapist will offer training sessions to all of the youth justice workers to raise awareness and increase their confidence, and the take-up for that is very good, speaking from across Gwent, where there is a speech and language therapist.
Okay. But there are 10 local authorities where there is no speech and language therapist, which is a bit worrying. Is this a conversation you've had with any of these local authorities, as to why they don't think a speech and language therapist is needed?
Sorry, is that addressed to me?
Yes, in the first instance, and then I'll come back to colleagues in the room.
No, it's not a conversation that I've personally had, because my area has been Gwent. All I can say on that matter is that it's been very beneficial across Gwent to have that speech and language therapist. We developed locally a health pathway so that all of the youth justice workers would have clear access to speech and language therapy if the therapist wasn't present, and that's been quite useful. So, all of the workers are aware of who they need to contact, who they need to speak to and how to access local services from Aneurin Bevan health board.
Excellent. And, Pippa, could you just elaborate on why it is that some local education authorities have no input from speech and language therapists?
Thank you. Yes, I think there is a number of reasons why that can be. Some of it is—. There are some local authorities where there used to be a speech and language therapist working in the youth justice service, but some of that was, maybe, short-term funding—and through service level agreements with the local health board—and due to the short-term funding nature of it, it was very difficult to sustain those as contracts and sustain the service. So, previously, there used to be speech and language therapists working in the youth justice services in north Wales, where, as you'll know now, Chair, that there aren't any speech and language therapists working in the youth justice services. So, I think some of those operational challenges need to be addressed so that there is that service available.
Okay. Well, we clearly need to have that conversation with the Minister in due course. Very good. If I could now ask Sioned Williams to come in.
Diolch, Cadeirydd, a bore da. Cwestiwn cyffredinol i ddechrau: oes modd ichi amlinellu beth yw'r math a'r raddfa o ddarpariaeth therapi lleferydd ac iaith bresennol yng Nghymru, ac yn benodol ar ba gamau o'r llwybr cyfiawnder ieuenctid y mae therapyddion lleferydd ac iaith yn gweithio?
Thank you, Chair, and good morning. A general question to start: could you outline the type and scale of current speech and language therapy provision in Wales, and specifically at what stages of the youth justice pathway do speech and language therapists work?
Who'd like to start?
I'll start, if that's okay.
Okay. Pippa Cotterill.
Thank you. So, there's a range of the amount of time that there is for speech and language therapists working in the different services, ranging from a number of services that don't have any time from a speech and language therapist dedicated within the team, to services where there's a whole-time equivalent speech and language therapist. So, that provision ranges significantly. There are some places where there's maybe one or two days of a speech and language therapist working in a service, and I think—. That is very important; it gives that training element, which Adam talked about, and a lot of them will provide assessment, and they will assess a young person and work out the extent to which the young person has speech, language and communication needs. Where there's more provision from speech and language therapists, they can then get involved in interventions, and direct interventions, with the young people, and that can be really important, working on things like their vocabulary development, even putting things in place to reduce the impact of the difficulties that they've got, and seeing some very, very tangible changes in that young person and how they're able to access society and education as well. The scale is wide-ranging in the amount of speech and language therapists' time that they have, which then follows that there is a range of what they're able to provide, and the support they're able to provide the YOSs and the young people.
Ie. Roedd yr achosion wnaethoch chi eu rhoi i ni a'r enghreifftiau gwnaethom ni eu cael yn y dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig yn hynod o rymus yn hynny o beth, ar ba mor drawsnewidiol oedd yr ymyriadau yna yn gallu bod. Gwnaeth Kim, dwi'n meddwl, sôn yn gynharach tipyn bach am yr offer sgrinio sy'n cael ei ddefnyddio i nodi pobl ifanc sydd ag angenion iaith a lleferydd a chyfathrebu yn y system gyfiawnder. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod yr hyn sydd ar gael yn addas i'r diben? Pa mor effeithiol ydyn nhw? A hefyd, sut mae'r sgrinio'n digwydd ar gyfer plant sy'n ddwyieithog a phobl ifanc sydd ddim â Saesneg fel iaith gyntaf?
Yes. The cases that you presented to us and the examples that you submitted in the written evidence were very powerful in that sense, on how transformative those interventions can be. I think Kim mentioned earlier the screening tools that are being used to identify young people who have these speech and language and communication needs within the justice system. Do you think that what's available is fit for the purpose? How effective are those tools? And also, how does screening happen for bilingual children and young people whose first language is not English?
I think with the screenings, it all depends on staff knowledge. So, if they've had the training around speech and language therapy, then they are more equipped to complete the screenings accurately. With regard to the bilingual side, in the youth justice service that I work in, I'm lucky that myself and my colleague, we both speak Welsh, so if they need any support with that, we're able to help with that, but also, we work alongside translators or interpreters to help with any other language. For example, I've recently had a Romanian, so doing the screening and assessments through the interpreter.
Ond rŷch chi'n eithaf bodlon bod—. Felly, mae'r offer sgrinio yn addas, ond efallai bod e'n dibynnu ar faint o hyfforddiant a faint o sgiliau sydd o fewn ein timau unigol—ydy hynny'n gywir?
But you're quite content that—. So, therefore, the screening tools are appropriate, but maybe it depends on how much training and how many skills exist within the individual teams—is that right?
Yes. It's knowing what to look out for within the young people, definitely.
Ocê. Rŷn ni wedi sôn hefyd tipyn bach am y wahanol fodelau, ac fe wnaeth Pippa sôn am yr amrywiaeth yna sydd i gael dros Gymru. O ran meddwl am y model, te, ydych chi o'r farn bod y timau yna sydd â therapydd lleferydd ac iaith wedi sefydlu yn rhan o'i gwasanaeth—ydy hynny yn well neu beidio na'r timau trosedd ieuenctid eraill sydd efallai â chytundebau allgymorth gyda'u timau therapi cymunedol? Oes gyda chi farn ynglŷn â pha fodel sydd fwyaf effeithiol, ac efallai beth yw cryfderau a gwendidau y ddau fodel?
Okay. We've also talked about the different models, and Pippa talked about that variation that exists across Wales. In terms of thinking about the model, are you of the opinion that the teams that have speech and language therapists embedded within their services—is that better or not than having the other teams that maybe have outreach agreements with their community therapy teams? Do you have a view on which model is most effective, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of those two models?
For me, I'm very much embedded within the team, and I've found that really useful. So, for example, if I'm in the office and a member of staff comes in and they see me, they automatically think, 'Oh, I need to talk to Kim about this young person.' They're conversations that maybe we wouldn't have if I wasn't embedded within the team, and also, another positive is that if they're bringing young people into the office and they want me to start working with them, we're breaking down that first barrier already because they've seen me. We might do a little introduction session, have a game of pool or a board game—anything like that—just to build relationships, and that really, really works as well.
Diolch. Oes gyda unrhyw un arall rywbeth—. Efallai, Adam, oes gyda chi rhywbeth i ychwanegu at hynny, o ran eich profiad chi yng Ngwent?
Thank you. Does anyone have anything to add? Adam, maybe, do you have anything to add in terms of your experience in Gwent?
Yes. I definitely think that having a speech and language therapist visibly as part of that team, embedded in the team, is really beneficial, because you have other specialists there who can talk to that speech and language therapist as well as the case manager about their particular area. So, if I was delivering anything from a mental health basis, I'd be able to easily access that therapist to say, 'What's the best way for me to approach this?' Yes, I think having somebody there—you can't beat that in terms of provision.
Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. Just to say to all witnesses, but particularly those who are online, if you wish to add to something that another speaker has said, please just raise your hand and I'll call you in. If we could now move on to Ken Skates.
Thanks, Chair. I'm going to ask some questions about specialist services, if I may, and perhaps I'll begin by asking—we should start, perhaps, with Adam and with Dave—whether you can outline the way that speech and language therapists work with CAMHS to ensure that children and young people's needs are met. And if you could also outline just how important it is that the two services work together and whether they're working together consistently across Wales or whether there are areas of Wales where we see exemplar practice.
Who'd like to go first?
Shall I go first?
Yes, Dave, please do.
Your last question is the easiest one, which is no, there isn't consistent practice across Wales. There are areas that work best. I think the key thing to all of this was emphasised in the last answer to the last question, actually: services work better when professionals know each other and have a really low threshold for being able to talk to each other. And, in the past, we've had a model that was very much transactional, about booking an out-patient appointment, and actually that's the end bit of the service, not the thing that's necessarily the most helpful. So, in this, in our work with schools, in our work with CAMHS, in our work with youth justice, what we try to do is we try to make sure that we have regular contact and relationships with the necessary therapists.
So, Adam has outlined how, in Gwent, we have speech and language therapists, we have mental health practitioners, and we're trying to map—. I should add that I'm also the designated education clinical liaison officer for Gwent. I'm a child psychiatrist who provides the psychiatric input into the youth justice team, and I also was, until just prior to lockdown, head of family and therapy services and deputy chair of the Gwent partnership board. We've been trying to work so the health offer isn't simply a referral and appointment basis, but is one that actually says that the first health offer is knowing your therapist, knowing your professional so that you can, at any time, pick up the phone and say, 'Look, I'm concerned about this young person, what should I do?', which then has a secondary layer of training, which then has a third layer of, 'I'll see this child alongside you and give you some advice.' And, if you like, it's not until layer four we talk about getting people into clinic, because the children who are most vulnerable and carry the most vulnerabilities often struggle to come to a clinic appointment due to the nature of their lifestyles. So, we actually need to not only front-load the input but actually move our input to where the young person is.
And there are several health boards across Wales that, in different sorts of specialties, are developing that sort of model. Mental health is probably the furthest along, because it's actually enshrined in the way of working, but speech and language, occupational therapy, lots of those services are trying to move things forward. The key is: first of all, have you got the capacity and space to do it, have you got the right staff to do it; and secondly, there is an issue about physical recruitment. There is big recruitment [correction: There is a big recruitment challenge in Wales] for every single professional, actually having people on the ground to deliver it. This form of work, i.e. working virtually through Zoom and through Teams, allows you to make sure that that expertise can be as flexible and far-reaching as possible. It works very well when you already know the team; it's a little bit slower developing those trusting relationships to be able to just pick up the phone and ask Pippa or Adam, 'I've just seen somebody, could he have it?'
So, things are moving and improving. There is variation across Wales. The reason for that variation is partly how far along the transformation journey each of those health boards is and also how many actual human beings have they got to deliver that actual service.
Thank you. Is there anyone else who would like to make a comment on that before I move on? No. I'll move on, then, and ask whether you might be able to just explain the forensic adolescent consultation treatment service for enhanced case management—how FACTS, as it's known, differs to the provision that we may find elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Adam.
Yes, I guess the FACTS teams are specifically for high-risk—[Inaudible.]—cases. They've been functioning for about, I think it's 15 years now, coming up there. We do work quite a lot with them in Gwent, so if there are cases that are more complex, or the level of risk, or specific risk—so, for example, they might have more experience in terms of arson and things like that. We might refer some of our local cases to FACTS, and they'd work alongside us, then, to provide specialist risk assessments or advise us in a multidisciplinary way what we can do to reduce that risk locally. And we've found them to be an excellent team in terms of the training that they've provided us, so they sometimes have specialist interest groups, and we would also meet with them as well with other kind of youth offending, clinical nurse specialists from around Wales to share good practice, updates. Yes, they've been a fantastic resource for us; we've learnt a lot from them to the point where we're looking to develop that sort of level of provision locally and try and replicate that in some way.
Yes. Thanks, Adam.
Yes. I think, a couple of reflections. First of all, again, the interface between the local team and FACTS varies across Wales depending on the capacity and the size of the team. And we know that, in health generally, the people who do the job best are the people who are appropriately trained and are doing the job regularly. So, the FACTS team creates that hub of real expertise, because they're always working in those high-risk situations. They’re able to provide the bridge between, again, very high risk and some of the more specialist criminal justice provision.
We understood about four, five years ago, however, that, in certain areas of Wales, children were being—'excluded' is the wrong word, but not getting the FACTS advice they could require, because the referral process required you to go through the local CAMHS forensic team before you got into the FACTS team, and if the CAMHS forensic team in the local health board wasn’t working, youth justice teams were really struggling to be able to get the children who it was legitimate to ask the questions and ask for assessments for. So, we’ve tried to change that so that there is an opportunity for youth justice teams to get that expertise and initial review and opinion when it’s proved impossible to go through the local CAMHS team for whatever reason. The team in Gwent, which is the second biggest health board; it’s about a fifth of the population of Wales, there are about four, four and a half full-time equivalents—something like that, Adam, yes? So, you can imagine when you do equivalents for Powys and Hywel Dda, we’re looking at quite small teams indeed, and if there’s a vacancy, filling those in. So, we’ve tried to make sure that we’ve ironed those gaps out a little bit for the FACTS team.
Great, thanks very much. Just moving on, often, a young person's SLCN is only one of a number of needs; they may have other needs such as substance misuse or mental health problems that they need to overcome. How effectively are these co-occurring needs managed, do you think?
I think the youth offending services have a very good model, where you have a number of specialists who sit and work together closely together. The AssetPlus, which is the main assessment tool for youth offending, will screen for substance misuse, mental health, speech and language, education needs, and so, that’s detected in the very early stages of the case manager picking up the case. So, I think speech and language assessment screening should be done within 10 days of the case manager picking up the case. I think for mental health, it’s 28 days, but any sort of signs of mental health, or substance misuse, or speech and language will get picked up, and then that will lead to consultations. And that could lead to joint working, so for example, if somebody has speech and language needs, then they might seek advice from the speech and language therapist on what's the best way of communicating mental health information or substance misuse information or making sure that appointments are met by using clock faces instead of, perhaps, digital information.
So, all of it works in synthesis, and often it's about sequencing interventions as well. So, it might be that if somebody has substance misuse problems, but the mental health problems are more prevalent, then you would address the mental health problems first, and, obviously, speech and language underlines all of that, because how we communicate and how the young person communicates are vital to get to develop that trusting relationship. So, we might use interventions or strategies advised by the speech and language therapist to work with that young person in a way that they can best get that information.
So, I think it works really well, and, along with the case manager, it's a really close network of multi-agency working that, because everybody is based in that same area, is very tight. You don't get that breakdown in communication. So, everybody knows what they're doing and when, so they're not overloading the young person with hundreds of different interventions at the same time. My experience of working within a youth offending service as a clinical nurse specialist, in particular, is that I've seen some excellent partnership working from across the board of social work, police, substance misuse, speech and language, mental health and probation. It does all work where you've got that multi-agency team sat next to each other, really.
The multi-agency model in youth justice is exemplary, actually, and when you, as we said before, get those professionals as part of the team, it probably works, I dare to say it, better in youth justice than it does in most other areas of multi-agency work. What we keep on bearing in mind is that most young people, the huge majority, spend very little time of their overall teenage years in youth justice, and they move out of youth justice into their communities, so how we maintain that model and those inputs when they move out of the youth justice arena is the challenge that we are all constantly trying to address, because you don't want people to get a better level of care if they've accidentally stumbled into the youth justice system.
Thank you. If I may ask a quick question about drug or alcohol treatment, to what extent are treatment services for young people adapted to meet the needs of those young people who may have court orders, but who have speech and communication needs?
I would say, 'Probably not enough.' I think that the current level of provision with speech and language is that the interventions are given and advice and strategies; I don't think it probably goes far enough, but I think that's down to the lack of time that the speech and language therapist has within the YOS. So, it could go further, but it tends to be a range of strategies that would be discussed with the various professionals, 'This is, maybe, how you could say this, or to add this, or to keep your sentences short or to use basic words.' I know that in appointments they do a lot of checking of the appointments to make sure that that young person would understand the language and be able to turn up at the right time on the right day, with lots of things like pictures. But, yes, I think it could go a lot further.
Ken, before you go on, I think Pippa Cotterill wanted to come in on this point.
Thank you, I would. Thank you very much. Absolutely, it's having that combination of direct intervention and indirect intervention. So, the indirect intervention is when you talk to the person who's working most closely with that young person, and support them to be using strategies and approaches that are going to help—so, that might be, as Adam has said, using visual strategies. I know, for example, there was a young person, and they were drinking a certain amount each day, but it was very difficult to ascertain how much actually that young person was drinking, and so it was visual strategies, it was bringing in containers. Is it this big bottle? Is it this sized bottle? Is it this sized bottle? It sounds very simple to do, doesn't it, but it's those sorts of approaches that mean that that intervention then becomes accessible for that child or young person. So, that's that combination of direct intervention and indirect intervention. Thank you.
Thanks. Back to you, Ken.
Thank you. Just finally from me, care-experienced children are over-represented in the youth justice system. What is being done to assess and to identify SLCN needs early, and is enough being done? Dave.
Again, the last question's the easy bit: no, enough isn't being done. One of the issues, as I intimated in an earlier question, is how you get your assessment and your services in the way of these children's complicated lives, because the traditional service model of sending an appointment and getting somebody to come in is often very complicated and difficult. There's often lots of other layers as well, and there aren't the co-ordinated services that you've got—that co-ordination of services that we've just described in youth justice.
One of the things we are trying to do is to think about how we replicate some of the models of regular interaction, regular input of our professional clinical staff with youth justice, or with education, and how we do something equivalent for the looked-after care sector. And I think that's a challenge, so that we can think about where best to get alongside the social workers or the foster carers; how we get into the supporting services around those care-experienced children to be able to have the model that was earlier discussed, which is really easy to have early conversation, if you need to refer to somebody, they're able to say, 'That person who comes into the clinic, the club or the contact on a Wednesday, they're the person we have the conversation with.' Doing that into the care system is a challenge that we haven't got right yet, I think.
Okay. Jane Dodds, I think you wanted to come in at this point.
Ie, diolch yn fawr iawn. Roedden i jest eisiau pigo i fyny ar y pwynt yna ynglŷn â phlant sy'n cael gofal, yn enwedig yn gweithio efo gweithwyr cymdeithasol. Ydy hynny ddim yn gweithio, felly? Beth sy'n digwydd? Buaswn i'n disgwyl bod pobl yn gallu gweithio efo'i gilydd. Felly, mae jest gen i ddiddordeb yn hynny.
Yes, thank you very much. I just wanted to pick up on that point about care-experienced children and specifically working with social workers. Does that not work, then? What's happening at present? You'd expect that people were able to work collaboratively. So, I just wanted to know more about that.
I have to declare that I was chair of Children in Wales and—[Inaudible.]—Voices from Care [correction: which has links with Voices from Care], and I'm aware there was the summit over the weekend as well.
One of the things about youth justice is that youth justice workers are with that young person for a period of time and see their role as working alongside them during that period of time in a way that isn't always possible in the stretched social care system, where they have many cases, they're very busy, they're managing safeguarding stuff. That time to be alongside and be part of the glue and the bridges to connect you with the services you need, in my experience, is variable, because they're often fantastic social workers, but it's not as consistent as we have found with the youth justice system. And I have a huge concern about the resource, the support and the money that goes into social care, to allow social care to really be a key partner.
I'm old enough to remember the strategy for children and adolescent mental health services, called 'Everybody's Business', and the reason that it works in youth justice is because they absolutely see themselves as part of the business of supporting, repairing, launching and making that young person thrive. We still have the conversations, 'Is this yours, or is this mine?' in too many spheres in young people's lives and, actually, it has to be, 'It's both of us, and how can we work together for that period of time before we move on?' We're not at that stage consistently across Wales with the different local authorities and, as I say, I have huge sympathy for the plight of the social worker who's faced with managing loads of cases that are really complicated.
Kim Jenkins, you wanted to add something—.
For me, as well, I think it's limited knowledge of speech and language, especially in children and young people 11 and up. A lot of people would see it more as a primary-age-type difficulty, so there's a lot of limited knowledge and more training that needs to be done with social workers and other front-line staff as well.
Given that it's between 60 and 90 per cent of all the people we're talking about, I can't understand, myself, how it is that people don't know about this, if they're working in this field. Ken, back to you.
Thanks, Chair. If I've got just one moment, could I just ask briefly whether Flying Start and Families First and other early intervention programmes are sufficient in terms of preventing offending, particularly in those areas where we have a high concentration of socially deprived families?
Pippa, do you want to start off?
Thank you, yes. Flying Start and Families First have done a huge amount to raise that awareness about speech, language and communication needs and there's a lot of very, very good work that's happening, not only by speech and language therapists, but in the much wider workforce when it comes to Flying Start and Families First. But I think some of the challenges then are changing as the children get older, as they move through primary school and, as we've just said, as they move through secondary school. There can be some acknowledgement that maybe some of those difficulties might first present as behaviour difficulties and maybe there is, as Kim has said, work that we need to do with that wider workforce in that older age range, that 11 to 16 age range, where presentation is going to be very, very different from how it was when somebody was accessing Flying Start services. So, I think there's that raising awareness that we need to do at that level, as well as with the care-experienced children, that workforce, raising the awareness of those. So, I think it is building on that and I think Flying Start, with the expansion that's happening, that's going to be very, very important, because we know that Flying Start has been in pockets of areas, so that expansion is going to be important, but we need that to continue throughout the age range of a child and young person as they move through the different systems that there are.
Okay. If we can now move on to the advocacy services that exist for young people who are struggling with these issues. Sarah Murphy.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, all, for being here this morning. I'm going to ask a few questions about advocacy. So, the first one is: is there sufficient advocacy for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs who are suspected of criminal activity, to help them to navigate the youth justice system, including during police interviews and in the court process? Is there anybody who would like to go first on this?
Within the police station our young people have an appropriate adult with them, so this could be a member of our volunteer team or a member of staff, it could also be their parent, depending on the offence. So, they have that through the police interview before they come into the youth justice services then. And in the youth justice service they do have a case manager who will, in a way, fight their corner throughout everything, with education, or if there's anything that they need, their case manager is there for them.
Okay. Thank you. But just to clarify, though, I suppose, it's not actually a trained advocate or an independent advocate.
No, we get appropriate adult training within the youth offending team, but nothing more than that.
Okay. Thank you.
Can I come in?
Yes, of course.
So, different areas have different arrangements for advocacy and often the local authority has commissioned advocacy. In Gwent, we've done a joint deal and obviously Tros Gynnal Plant or the National Youth Advocacy Service have been the preferred providers. Two things: first of all, I think young people—. Our experience is that it's been quite difficult to get people to take up the advocacy offer because it's not something people are used to having. So, we need to help develop this as something helpful, for people to understand what advocacy means in a way that young people go, 'Do you know what? This would be a really useful thing for me', as opposed to, 'Why would I have another stranger in the room?' So, there's work to be done on a good idea becoming something that young people themselves see as really, really helpful.
The secondary thing is making sure that advocacy understands the intricacies and difficulties of people in different vulnerabilities. So, it is different having to do advocacy for people with speech and language problems, as it is for people in all sorts of other different circumstances. As we grow the advocacy offer, we need to think, 'Are we growing the range of nuanced advocacy offers we're also doing?' At the moment, we're at the first stage of just getting advocacy as a thing that you do and that we encourage people to use. We're not as far down the line as we want to be with saying, 'Okay, you've got the advocacy, now we need advocacy to match the sorts of obstacles and hurdles you have in enabling you to get your voice heard.'
Absolutely. Thank you, Dave. Sorry, as you've raised it, I just need to make a declaration that my mother is the chief executive officer of TGP Cymru. I didn't make it at the beginning, obviously, because they're not down to give evidence, but, as you've raised them, I want to declare that. I just want to ask you, then, two follow-up questions, Dave. Do you think, though, that young people are given a better service if they do have the active offer of an advocate being with them?
Yes, I think that extra offer, and that whole bit of navigating because you get—. There are loads and loads of different services, not all of which help. Adam mentioned earlier that one of the key things in helping people recovering complex lives is sequencing the interventions, not doing it all at once. Now, if you go through the court, they like giving a big menu list of eight things you need to do before you go into care and all sorts of things. And actually, in clinical care, the best clinical care is when you listen to the young person, they feel able to express their voice, and you agree the route-map out of recovery in the order that suits that person's strengths, difficulties and life circumstances. And that is helped by advocacy in both understanding the young person's needs and wants, but also joining up the dots as well and knitting those services together.
Absolutely. Thank you very much. And then coming to intermediaries—. So, intermediaries are available to support young people with, sorry, SLCN—I haven't had that coffee today—who are witnesses through the court system, and your view on whether intermediaries should be available for defendants, and what the current barriers are to accessing intermediaries.
Dave, did you want to come in on this one as well?
Yes. I'd start with the point that no, there aren't enough.
The word 'intermediary' is a really interesting word, and it would be interesting what the young people themselves understand what they think of as an intermediary, because if you offer something and they think, 'What on earth's that?', they're unlikely to say 'yes', or make any decision on an informed basis. So, I think there's a role to play—. As I say, it comes back to this. The court experience is a particular experience. It's not something you would expect every single advocate to really get the hang of, or every single person. And it already feels very challenging. However you make it, it feels adversarial and hierarchical. So, having a trusted intermediary, that people understand what their job is, that have good communication and engagement skills with the young person, would help, because what we want to do is deal with the issues that are important for that young person, not add to the issues by traumatic or upsetting issues of negotiating the system, if you like, to come out the other end. Because, actually, I think there are, as we said earlier in the session, some good news stories about people's experiences in the youth justice system in Wales, actually. And we don't want—. So, let's magnify that bit, and let's not make the system they have to go through to get to that good news story likely to trip them up or cause them further problems, or give them further angst.
I agree. Thank you. Did anybody else—? Pippa or Kim, did you want to come in on any of the barriers to accessing this kind of support?
Thank you, yes. Just that I think it needs to be known about a lot more widely. I think there is still an element of if somebody, as part of that court process, is aware of and have previously used intermediaries then that might happen again. But it's too reliant on that for it to be consistent and to make sure that it's helpful for all the young people that it can be helpful for.
Absolutely. Thank you. And then, my last question: the National Autistic Society Cymru say that many autistic people have profoundly negative and damaging experiences in prison, so what support and adjustments do you think should be provided to young people with speech, language and communication needs in custody to ensure they are not bullied or manipulated by fellow prisoners? Would anyone like to come in on this first?
Yes, I'm happy to come in. Thank you. I think there's such a range of experiences, aren't there, there, which are going to be new for any young person who comes into that. And for them to make sense of the world can be challenging enough, but then they're thrown into a completely different world and trying to make sense of that, and I think that's something where, when we think about what speech and language therapists can do, it's supporting them with some of those problem-solving skills. Because, actually, the way that they might solve a problem could be very, very different, and actually could be very, very detrimental and harmful, both to them and other people. And if we think about language skills and how many of us will solve problems by thinking through language—how are we going to do something, how are we going to approach something, thinking about the sequence of events and how those things work—and how you solve a problem can be very, very different if you can think about a sequence of events, and children with speech, language, communication needs might not be able to do that kind of problem solving.
So, I think it is really, really important that they have that support, both prior to going into that, but when they're in that service. And we have a member who works up in the prison in north Wales and is doing some incredible work working with the wider workforce in the prison, but also with the prisoners themselves, thinking about their problem-solving skills to change what they do. Maybe setting fire to something—that's not the right thing to do, because that's going to put them at harm and other people as well, so is there another way that they can address the problems that they're facing? And that's very important.
That's very helpful. Thank you. It is always really helpful for the committee when we are aware of best practice, so it's good to have examples like that and look at maybe how that can be spread far and wide, so thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Could I just ask what the relationship is with solicitors? Because they must become aware that there are communication issues when they're talking to their client before they appear before the Youth Justice Board. Are they proactively saying, 'I think there should be an intermediary present?'
I think where they've used intermediaries previously then that 'must be aware' is far more likely to happen. But I think if that's not something that they've come across before—the same as with the rest of the wider workforce—it's not a, 'It must occur to them that child might have speech, language, communication needs.' And that's why training the wider workforce is very, very important for, say, the police to be aware that, actually, maybe there's something that they can do to support that young person, because maybe they're thinking, 'Actually, this young person has speech, language, communication needs.' I think it's that 'must be aware of' and that's what we really need to look at.
Thank you. Can I bring Altaf Hussain in now, please?
Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon to you all. Can you outline what speech and language therapy input is available in preventing offending, and what can be done to ensure that its value is recognised?
I think there is a lot—[Interruption.] Sorry.
Shall we start with Pippa and then we'll come to Adam or Dave?
Is that okay? Thank you. So, there is a lot happening that's raising that awareness, as we've talked about, but I think there is more that needs to be done on that. Sorry. Do you want to pass over to Dave, and I'll come back in after?
Okay. Dave, do you want to go first, then?
No, no. Sorry, I was just having a drink; I wasn't waving at all. I was having some water, so back to Pippa.
Do you want me to—? I think more needs to be done around the education side. A lot of the young people who I work with either have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion. So, if they have a speech and language therapy assessment prior to that, then hopefully we can get them to stay in education. And again, yes, raising awareness—social workers, education, youth workers—just so that they're aware that speech and language needs do exist in this client group, in this age.
Thank you, Chair. There's some really, really good work that's happening in certain local authorities, looking at where the key points are, and the transition from year 6 to year 7, so moving from primary school to secondary school, is really, really key, because that's when things change significantly for a young person. They might have been in the same classroom for the whole time whilst they were in year 6, whereas in year 7 it's a much bigger environment. There are many more children around. They've got to move around the setting. So, in some areas they've been having a look at children from year 6 and making sure that there's a checklist done on their speech and language skills, to see whether there is any presentation of speech, language, communication needs and what to do about those—so, heightening that awareness at that key trigger point. And it will be really interesting for us to find out the differences that's going to make, and whether that can be used, along with many other measures—I'm thinking particularly about school attendance and achievements. That can be a key point where additional support could be provided, to reduce that being the trajectory for that young person.
Dave, you wanted to come in.
Yes, Chair. The general issue is how you prove prevention works, because you have to show that something didn't happen, not being able to prove it would have happened in the first place. We are better now at asking the question, so when we set the services up, we are starting to gather the information, so that five or 10 years down the line we'll be able to see the difference that makes. In this area, there's a lot going on in youth justice. They've changed their model and training in a lot of different ways. There's a lot going on in the model of health and the way that they intervene. We've got the Flying Start expansion. We've also got things, relevant to the last question, about the code of practice for autism, which says, 'You know what? There's an equality issue here,' so that all services should have in their mind should they need to make appropriate adaptions for people with autism at the front. So, finding out which of the bits of the jigsaw make the difference. We've got lots of things that theoretically should make a difference, and we are at least now capturing the data so that we will be able to say it. We can't say that retrospectively very easily, and that's pretty true of most of the data across the world as well. We're not good at saying, 'We did this and this happened as a result five or 10 years later on the prevention agenda.'
I think, from a preventions point of view, as well, if children are exhibiting behavioural problems that might get them into trouble with the police, prevention services—. And youth justice in particular is moving more towards a preventions-type approach. So, there are lots more young people coming through on lower-level orders now as opposed to the more intensive court-decided orders, and there is a lot more resource being put there. So, on a local level, for example, there's the Turnaround project across all of the Gwent YOSs, which is looking at working with the families as well as the young person. So, whereas before in youth justice they would work with the families, now it's part of that programme. So, they can pick up on all of that background information about the young person, whether there are speech and language difficulties, and how best to address them.
Thank you very much. The Welsh Government's 'Talk With Me' strategy aims to raise awareness, which we have been talking about, of speech and language therapy in the early years. Has this been achieved, and, if so, should the plan now be extended to expand the age range? And also what has been the impact of this awareness, if any, so far?
Thank you. Yes, 'Talk With Me', as a campaign, has had a wide reach, and has been really important very much at that very, very early years session. You will have seen, I hope, some of the adverts that have been on telly promoting communication to babies and for parents before they have their children, even, and the importance of speech, language and communication at all those levels. 'Talk with Me' does have as one of its objectives to think about cross-policy and policy developments, and that speech, language and communication are incorporated across them all. I think the fact that 'Talk with Me' has the national speech and language co-ordinators who work in Welsh Government on 'Talk with Me'—. There's a time limit for that at the moment, but there's so much more work that needs to be done. I think this objective about the policy, which does specifically talk about youth justice—. There are many more places where it could go and there is much, much more work that could be done. So, I think expanding on that, both the timescale and the reach, and the work that's done as part of that, is very important to be considered.
Anybody else? Any other thoughts? Jane, you wanted to come in.
Jane, do you want to come in now? Jane Dodds.
Ie, jest un peth. Mae gen i ddiddordeb yn 'Talk with Me', y papur o'r Llywodraeth. Gaf i jest ofyn, yn eich barn chi, sut mae'n cael ei ddeall ar draws y wlad? Ydy o'n cael ei ddeall dros Gymru? Ydy hynny'n rhywbeth sydd, yn eich barn chi, eich profiad chi, yn digwydd?
Yes, just one thing. I was interested in 'Talk with Me', the paper from the Government. Can I just ask: in your opinion, how is that understood across the country? Is it understood across Wales? Is that something that, in your opinion and in your experience, happens?
I think it's getting there. I know that some colleagues were at the Eisteddfod last year, and they had families come up and they were talking about 'Talk with Me', they were talking about things that they'd seen in the media. So, it is getting that word out there. There's lots more to do, obviously, but yes, people are seeing the adverts, people are seeing the campaign, seeing the media attention around it. So, yes, the word is getting out there.
Thank you, Chair.
Okay, very good. Jane, over to you, if you want to pick up any other issues to do with this.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest dau gwestiwn, os ydy hynny'n iawn i bawb. Yn eich barn chi, ydy lleisiau'r bobl ifanc yn y system yn cael eu clywed, a sut mae hynny'n digwydd? Achos rydyn ni'n gwybod nad oes yna un—. Wel, rydyn ni'n meddwl nad oes mudiad yng Nghymru sy'n cynrychioli plant sydd â phroblemau. Felly, yn eich barn chi, ydy lleisiau pobl ifanc yn cael eu clywed yn y system? Allaf i fynd at y bobl sydd yn yr ystafell yn gyntaf, jest i glywed eu barn nhw, ac wedyn mynd i Dave ac Adam?
Thank you very much. Just two questions, if that's okay with everyone. In your opinion, are the voices of young people in the system being heard, and how is that happening? Because we don't think that there's an organisation in Wales that represents children who have these needs. So, in your opinion, are the voices of young people being heard in the system? Can I go first of all to those in the room, just to hear their opinions, and then go to Dave and Adam?
With regard to organisations that support young people—and we briefly discussed this earlier—we used to have Afasic Cymru, which were very much for the young people and put a lot of effort into speech and language therapy in youth justice settings as well, but unfortunately they folded in 2018. I think, Pippa, there were a few others that we mentioned earlier.
But they wouldn't be specific to Wales, they would be UK-wide organisations. Do you want to talk about the work that you do with the young—.
With the youth club?
I and Afasic Cymru, back in 2012, started up a youth club for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs in the Neath Port Talbot area. At the moment, 25 per cent of those have come through the youth justice system. I'm lucky enough to work with both of them, so I'm able to refer young people who I believe would benefit from this sort of approach, who need help with social skills, making and meeting new friends. The very vulnerable young people come to the youth club and they absolutely thrive, so something like that across Wales would be absolutely fantastic.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Efallai Dave neu Adam, beth amdanoch chi? Ydy lleisiau pobl ifanc yn cael eu clywed yn y system? Diolch.
Thank you very much. Dave or Adam, perhaps, what about you? Are the voices of young people being heard in the system? Thank you.
Definitely not, for a variety of reasons. We do occasionally hear the voices of young people when there's a review of the service. The reviewer of the service tends to go to speak to the young people and the service users. However, it's not something that's routine. There is something about how we encourage young people to feel confident that they can openly talk about an experience when they're under the youth justice system. Just by its very perception, there is a hierarchical 'what can you see' in trusting somebody to talk to them that they're not part of the system, and you can talk and openly criticise or praise whoever you've got. It is a challenge we need to deal with. I think it's an issue that we need to address. As I said, I was chair of Children in Wales and Young Wales; I know, in Young Wales, we've been trying to say, 'How do we make it more reflective of all children across Wales, rather than the youth councils?' They attract a great diverse group, but still from an age range and from a circumstance change they could do more to go further. I do think we need to think about how we make that voice loud, because we know that people who feel that they are empowered and have had their voice heard are more likely to engage. The key to all of this work in youth justice is to help the young person feel engaged and have a future and have a hope, that you can then move them away from it, so they can move out of that arena.
Diolch. Efallai Adam.
Thank you. And Adam, maybe.
I think, on a local level, some of the youth justice services are very good at capturing the young person's voice. I attend the local management boards for the three YOSs, and we're often getting feedback from young people. I think Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent YOS, for example, are very good at making sure that the young person's opinions and thoughts on the service and what they've been through and what's happening to them come through at every local management board. So, there are certain YOSs that are very good at that, and others, I think, need to work on that to make sure that we are hearing how these young people are doing. Saying that, Newport's local management board, at the last meeting, had a presentation, and all the young people agreed to talk about how a particular project had affected them. We saw a video of that, which was really nice; it was very, very powerful. So, I think they are working at capturing that, and presenting that to others, and making sure that young people are heard. But there's still a lot of work to be done, I think.
Gaf i jest ddilyn i fyny, os gwelwch yn dda? Rydyn ni'n canolbwyntio ar bobl ifanc hefyd sydd wedi mynd i'r carchar i bobl ifanc; oes yna gyfle i glywed lleisiau pobl ifanc sydd yn y carchar—wel, does yna ddim yng Nghymru—dros Lloegr hefyd, yn eich profiad chi?
Can I just follow up on that then, please? We're focusing on young people also who've been to young persons' prisons. Is there an opportunity to hear the voices of those young people who have been in prison—we don't have any in Wales—in England, from your experience?
I don't think there's very much of that, to be honest. I've not come across that before. Interestingly, there was a podcast—I think it was on Radio 1—where they were talking about the experiences of prisoners. It had come from a prison radio, and they were trying to kind of replicate that and keep that going in the community. But locally, I'm not aware of that happening at the moment.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Achos mae o'n bwysig iawn, onid ydy, clywed lleisiau pobl ifanc, ond pan fyddan nhw wedi mynd i'r carchar, rydyn ni i gyd yn anghofio amdanyn nhw, yn fy marn i, felly mae'n bwysig iawn.
Y cwestiwn olaf, os ydy hynny'n iawn, ydy: mae gennych chi i gyd gyfle i gael un argymhelliad i'r Llywodraeth yn y maes yma. Beth fydd yr un argymhelliad fyddech chi'n ei roi i ni i'w basio ymlaen i'r Llywodraeth? Gaf i fynd yn gyntaf i'r bobl yn yr ystafell, os gwelwch chi'n dda?
Thank you very much. Because it is really important, isn't it, to hear the voices of young people, but when they go to prison, of course, a lot of us forget about them, in my opinion, so I think it's really important.
The final question, if that's okay, Chair, is: you all have an opportunity to suggest one recommendation to the Government in this area. What would that one recommendation be, that you would give us to pass on to the Government? Can I start with the people in the room, please?
Thank you. My recommendation would be for speech and language therapists to be embedded in all the youth justice services in Wales, to be able to provide training for the immediate youth justice workforce, the wider workforce who come into contact with those children and young people, for them to be able to have a truly person-centred experience, in as much as that can happen as part of this, but also, so they can provide direct intervention and indirect intervention. That's possibly a number of recommendations, but all encased in one. Thank you.
For me, as Pippa has used the one that I thought I'd use, for all children and young people at risk of exclusion from school to have a speech and language assessment, as they're over-represented in the criminal justice system.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dave, cyfle i roi un argymhelliad.
Thank you very much. Dave, one recommendation.
It's related to that. I think I would like us to have a more sophisticated discussion about how we measure good services. We're very good at measuring waiting times, and they're absolutely a component of them, but if we've got the wrong service model—. We've heard today about how we need to work in different ways where we work alongside people; we need to value that alongside the outcomes for the young people and the voice of young people, and also the voice of the services who work together, as well. All those three things need to be held in equal esteem when we're saying, 'Is this service a good one or not?', not 'Did you wait six months and two weeks or did you wait six months and minus two weeks?'
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Ac Adam yn olaf.
Thank you very much. And Adam, finally.
I second Pippa's recommendation, actually, to have a speech and language therapist embedded in the YOS as part of that specialist group, enabling them to not just give the indirect interventions, but to do direct work with the young people, because I've seen the benefit of the indirect work, and I think with direct work they would benefit even more.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Yn ôl atoch chi, Cadeirydd. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much. Back to you, Chair. Thank you.
Finally from me, we've heard lots of good examples of good practice from all of you in your individual work; I just wondered what the role of the children's commissioner was, because she's not been mentioned at all, particularly with those young people with speech and language difficulties who've got parents with speech and language difficulties and who may not have the benefit of an intermediary. What role, if any, does the children's commissioner play in ensuring that the best practice is spread across all our services? Does anybody want to add anything on that?
Just to agree. I think it's very, very important that children, whatever background and environment they're from, have opportunities and access to services, and part of that is about that wider workforce. We've talked a little bit about some of that workforce, but I think to name some of those, there are very important things that we need to do from initial teacher education through induction for various different workforces—so, social work, police, magistrates, all of those. That would come under that remit, wouldn't it, for them to make sure that the children have person-centred services.
Okay. So, not something that you're able to add anything on at the moment. Thank you.
Well, thank you all very much indeed for your evidence—really interesting. You've all given a lot of information for us to think about. You will be sent a transcript of what you have said, and this is your opportunity to correct anything that we've misheard or misinterpreted. Otherwise, we very much thank you for your evidence, it will really help us endeavour to ensure that the best is spread across the whole of Wales. So, thank you very much indeed.
There are six papers to note. Are Members content to—? Thank you very much. So, we'll note all those papers, and we'll come back to them later if we need to. Jane Dodds.
There's just one issue I wanted to raise with regard to one of the pieces of correspondence, but I can write to you formally about that. Thank you.
Okay. We can pick it up later if needed.
The committee will now take a break until 3 o'clock, when we'll have our second panel with the police and the youth justice service. For those who may be watching this from home, please do join us again at 3 o'clock. We'll start again at 3 o'clock promptly.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 13:00 a 15:00.
The meeting adjourned between 13:00 and 15:00.
Welcome back to the Equality and Social Justice Committee's meeting, which is a bilingual meeting, and simultaneous translation is available for anybody who's not speaking Welsh. We're going to take the second panel of our short inquiry into young people in the youth justice system who have speech, language and communication difficulties. I'm delighted to welcome our six speakers: Darren Trollope, head of planning and advice at the Youth Justice Board; Alison Davies and Amanda Turner—Alison is the principal officer for Neath Port Talbot youth justice service and Amanda Turner is the operations manager for Neath Port Talbot youth justice service, so I welcome both of you; then we've got chief constable Amanda Blakeman from North Wales Police; Emma Wools, deputy police and crime commissioner for South Wales Police; and Eleri Thomas, deputy police and crime commissioner for Gwent Police. Thank you all very much indeed for making yourselves available this afternoon. Ken Skates is going to open the questions, if you don't mind.
Thank you, Chair; good to see everybody this afternoon. Can I begin by asking what your understanding is and what your awareness is of police officers and youth justice staff's understanding of how prevalent social and communication difficulties are amongst young people who are involved in the justice system? Do you think there is a good understanding of just how prevalent it is? It's a question to all, so, perhaps, shall we begin with the police representatives?
Do you want me to start first? I'm Amanda Blakeman, chief constable, North Wales Police.
That'd be great, thank you.
Okay. Prynhawn da, pawb. Thank you very much—diolch—for the opportunity to come to speak to you today. I would say that the level of understanding across policing is a lot better than it was. There is far more training, far more awareness and far more understanding than has been the case historically, and by historically I mean that that has developed significantly over the past 30 years. There is always opportunity to further enhance and to further understand, because we're looking at a really complex area that affects children in so many different ways across all of the different strands of society that we come into contact with as policing.
So, what we aim to do is to give our staff a good enough understanding that they're able to identify signs that may mean that a child has a specific need or is identifying with a specific need, or whose behaviour is represented in such a way that they may be relevant to signpost to a particular agency, and then that allows us to be able to put that level of expertise in place that we, as generalists, in terms of contact with the community, might not be able to deliver in that specialist way that is needed for a child.
But, specifically, when they are with us within the criminal justice system, there are a number of safeguards that are in place in terms of making sure that that segue—that opportunity—to be able to interact with those specialist services is in place, like appropriate adults, intermediary services, et cetera, which we reach into consistently and constantly as part of the police and criminal evidence Act, as part of the children's Act and as part of our obligation to make sure that young people are treated fairly and appropriately within the system. I can go into some detail about how we do that with our probationary constables right from the start of their training and development, to how we do that in a far more specialised way, with officers who may be permanently in contact with young people as part of their specialist role, but I'll pause for a moment in case you want to ask me any specific questions.
I can see that Darren has his hand raised—Darren. Thank you, Amanda.
Thank you for the opportunity to present evidence and advice at this committee. From a Youth Justice Board perspective, as having whole-system oversight of the system in Wales, I would say that there is a good awareness of speech, language and communication needs among youth justice services. I think it's worth bearing in mind, actually, some of the broader context here, in that most children who've come into contact with the youth justice system have language and communication needs. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have developed an extensive evidence base on this issue. I think it's anywhere between 60 and 90 per cent of children who've committed an offence will have low-level language skills, and half or two thirds of those will have poor skills. But, only a very low percentage of those are actually diagnosed before entering the system, and so I think it's part of the role of youth justice services actually to assess the needs of the children as they come into contact with them, and so, each service has a range of screening tools and assessment tools that they use to identify the needs of children, of which speech, language and communication will be one. We know from evidence and public health research that children who come into contact with youth justice services have a wide range of barriers to achieving their potential, from adverse childhood experiences through neglect and things like speech, language and communication needs. So I think, among the professionals in the system, there's a good level of awareness.
Thanks, Darren. Eleri.
Thank you. Thank you for the question and thank you for the opportunity to appear today. Just in addition to the opening remarks by the chief constable and by Darren from the Youth Justice Board, as police and crime commissioners—across Wales, the four police and crime commissioners have invested heavily in training officers and staff across our police services in adverse childhood experiences, and in particular in understanding the complexities that face children and families in relation to their access to services and their contribution in their communities.
Within policing, we're very pleased that we've got a child-centred policing strategy and commitment, and just along with the National Police Chiefs' Council, we very much see this as children first, making sure that we put children at the centre, and understanding the needs and the support that children require, just as much as we subscribe to the Youth Justice Board's child-first principle, and that very much is the principal way that we approach this issue.
I would say from a policing perspective as well, it is a real partnership with our youth justice services, with our youth offender services, where they really do have the specialism within their teams to assess, to work collaboratively with children and young people to access the support that they require. In Gwent and Newport, we have published a research document in 2020, which we'll make available to you, specifically looking at issues about understanding vulnerability, exploitation and criminality, and I think that that, again, will add to the evidence that you're taking.
Well, that would be really helpful, if we could have that. Is there anyone else who would like to make a comment on this particular question?
Am I okay to speak? Hiya, it's Amanda Turner from Neath Port Talbot youth justice team. I would just like to say that I kind of agree with what's been said. Across youth justice teams, I think there's a good awareness of the understanding around the prevalence of speech and language needs amongst the population that we work with. I think this is supported by local training around speech and language needs across the services, and also supported by a range of documents, including the Youth Justice Board's publication in 2015 around practice advice, speech and language and communication needs and the youth justice service. As already mentioned, within the AssetPlus assessment, there are checklists embedded within that to support staff to identify underlying speech and language needs, and most YOTs, including our own, have embedded this checklist in the out-of-court screening tools as well. So there's consistency across the remit of young people we work with, and the Youth Justice Board resource hub also has a section on there around speech and language needs, and within that, they draw people's attention to the Box training that has been published by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. So, there's specific training that can be done there.
I think the difference is if you've got speech and language therapists embedded within your own team, then your knowledge is far greater because you have access to that resource, and you will also have local data because, obviously, there is a lot of research out there that talks around the prevalence, but if you have speech and language therapists in your team, then you have more localised data. So, for Neath Port Talbot this year, we know that 79 per cent of the young people who have come into contact with our service have some level of speech and language need. We know that only two of those young people—so, two out of 28 that were seen by our speech and language therapist—had actually been seen by speech and language therapy outside of the service. So, that's 7 per cent of young people who had only been seen before they'd come to our team. Just having a speech and language therapist in your team allows you to understand that cohort a little bit more in terms of gender, age, et cetera, so you have a bit more of a profile of the young people with speech and language needs.
Thank you. Shall I move on to my next question, Chair? Is that okay?
Yes, that's fine. I think everybody's—.
It's specifically a question for our policing friends. Are you confident that officers are equipped with the skills required to support young people with SLCN, including those who are autistic, because we've heard from the National Autistic Society Cymru who have said that their research has found that only 5 per cent of families feel confident that police officers have a good understanding of autism? And I think the figure relating to training in this area is about 37 per cent of police having had training. Is this an area of concern to the police?
So, if you look at neurodiversity in its widest possible sense, then, clearly, we reach into quite a complex area with diagnoses that stand outside of autism and reach across a whole range of specific needs of those individuals. And it's a real tall order to ask every one of our police officers to understand that in detail. So, what we've tried to do is to give an overview in relation to how somebody may present, and how that communication should be undertaken in order to be able to get the best out of that scenario, and support that individual, whether they be a witness, a victim or somebody who is entering the criminal justice system. And for a young person, i.e. somebody under the age of 18 years age, that is easier because of the fact that, clearly, we have appropriate adults and we have the ability to be able to check and test with people around that individual, so that we are able to triangulate what we are seeing with that person's history.
Where it becomes more challenging is that, obviously, for a young person, the age range goes up to 25. So, from that cohort from 18 to 25, it is perhaps more difficult because we have to therefore make an assessment of whether that individual needs an appropriate adult, and get that engagement in relation to the appropriate adult being present in order to aid and facilitate that communication, and make sure that that person's rights and entitlements are fully discharged and they have every support, and the ability to refer in.
So, what we've tried to do is to ensure that our probationary constables coming through the system have an overview in relation to neurodiversity, and how to be able to interact with that in a way that is the right way for the individual, and understand what is there in terms of support agencies to be able to make referrals, and understand the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to make sure that appropriate adults are called. And, of course, within our custody provisions, we also have health experts working alongside us who can also assist us, as well as more experienced custody officers.
The training is ongoing, it's comprehensive, it reaches across a huge area, and it is one of those programmes that we are rolling out alongside lots of other training that we do around vulnerability. So, we've got an ongoing programme of training our officers around this very important area, so that we get the very best in terms of the interaction, as I say, either as a victim, a witness or as somebody who has been accused of a particular crime and comes into our criminal justice system. So, if I give that as a broad answer, and I'm happy to take any detailed questions in relation to that.
I think that's fine. I'm just going to ask generally, though, what more needs to be done, for staff and with staff, right across the justice system, to improve the understanding of the different ways that SLCN can impact on young people and how they are best supported.
I don't know if you want me to come back in on that one and then allow colleagues to pick up. Within Wales, we work very closely together as agencies in order to be able to understand that, and that's part of the reason that we've got a child-centred policing board and part of the reason that we've sought to work on a child-centred policing strategy, so we don't criminalise young people, so we're able to offer support in relation to young people, and we are able to look at more specific needs and make sure that we're training across agencies. I think the safeguarding boards are pretty good at being able to pick up training requirements and also develop packages and deliver packages back in to organisations across the board—rather than a specific training package for policing, a specific training package for youth offending teams, et cetera. But, obviously, this is a hugely complex, very specialist area, and I think what we need to do is to be realistic in terms of training our staff to be able to pick up the signs and understand how they refer into specialist services. And those specialist services then need to be, I suppose, adequately equipped to be able to accommodate those young people who are in need of speech and language services, which may be short on supply, or specialist services around education, around social services, which, again, might not be a priority in terms of the other priorities that are going on. Because we can find ourselves referring in a person a number of times, and actually they're on a waiting list or they're due to be seen by CAMHS, or whatever the service might be, and sometimes it's the speed of the service to be able to pick up the individual's specific need, which might be quite complex, may be multifaceted, certainly multilayered in terms of history and exposure to vulnerability, that we find quite difficult to navigate through and get that specific help for that young person.
Thank you. Would anybody else like to offer a view on how staff can be better trained, assisted?
Alison Davies is indicating.
Hello. Alison Davies, principal officer, Neath Port Talbot. I think, for us as youth justice workers, the key is that the young person's voice has to be central to everything we do, that young people have to have agency in some of the decisions that are being made about them, and that's across the board in everything in youth justice, not just around speech and language. And I think one of the key things for me is recognising that the professional language that we use may not always be what young people understand. So, I think there's a role and responsibility for us as professionals to go back to check out that young people are actually understanding what we're saying as a professional to them. I'll give you an example. I've done some work recently on some young people, not specific to speech and language, but on the child's voice, and one young person told me that he understood that he was on the child protection register, and he thought 'CP' meant 'child paedophile'. So, it's actually going back and checking out everything that we are saying, because we can do all the training in the world, but if young people don't understand what we're doing, and trying to do with them and not to them—. I think that's an absolute basic building block of everything we do.
Thanks, Chair. That's all from me.
Jane Dodds wanted to come in.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae gen i ddiddordeb yn beth roeddet ti'n sôn amdano—y gwaith efo lleisiau plant. Roeddwn i jest eisiau gweld ydy hynny ar gael i ni fel pwyllgor.
Thank you very much. I have an interest in what you were talking about, in terms of the work with the child's voice. I just wanted to see whether that's available to us as a committee.
It will be. I've just finished a PhD—I've just been awarded a PhD—and it's around the voice of young people in cases of exploitation. It's a multi-agency approach, so it should be published imminently.
Can I also say that, in Neath Port Talbot, we are actually in the process of undertaking a focus group with young people to gain their views around the speech and language services that we currently have in place, and what they feel is necessary to support them with regard to their own needs. So, again, once we've completed that piece of work, we can feed that back in.
Very good. I just wanted to pick up—. Reflecting on the evidence we heard this morning from the speech and language therapists, and from some of the specialist people in the health service, there's clearly good practice going on in Neath Port Talbot, but the service is patchy. So, Darren, I wondered if you could just tell us what initiatives there are to ensure that this child-centred approach that you have in Neath Port Talbot is being adopted by other local authorities and health boards.
So, part of the Youth Justice Board's remit is to identify and disseminate effective practice in youth justice in all aspects. Someone has already mentioned the youth justice resource hub, which is an online digital resource for all practitioners to access materials that are provided by the sector across England and Wales. There's a wealth of information and resource on there—toolkits and research for practitioners to access, which will help them upskill. We go to great lengths to help support the development and dissemination of effective practice in Wales. We have an effective practice forum called Hwb Doeth, which is a national meeting partnership between us, YOT Managers Cymru, Welsh Government and academia, which looks at a range of issues that are determined, really—are sector led, practice led—to identify where there's a need for developing practice or identifying where there is indeed good practice. That is supported by four regional meetings as well, so, again, regional partnerships to help develop practice. So, in general terms, we have the mechanisms in place to identify and share good practice, but I think it's fair to say, yes, there's more that can be done to make sure there's consistent practice everywhere.
I think there is inevitably a variation in practice delivery, which will be regional, based on both the delivery context in each area and the need of the children that each youth justice service works with. But, yes, we strive to try and continuously improve the system and the outcomes that children who are in the system obtain. So, I hope that helps answer your question, Chair.
Thank you, Darren. What specifically Dr Williams and Adam Edwards, this morning, said was that there's no substitute, really, for having a speech and language therapist in the team in the room, and yet 10 local authorities don't have any contract with speech and language therapists. So, is that something that is your responsibility to address, or, if not, who is making that point?
So, the responsibility of the youth justice service, if I might answer that, is with the local authority chief executive. There are statutory partners set out in the Act that established youth justice. Obviously, it's not as prescriptive as going into that level of detail in terms of specialist practitioners. So, again, like I said, it comes down to local context and need, whether there is investment in a seconded or embedded speech, language and communication therapist in the service, or if there are links with the partners—[Inaudible.]
Unfortunately, I think we're losing Darren at the moment. Are you still able to hear us?
It's not for us to prescribe that, this service—[Inaudible.] Yes, I can hear you. So, I was saying it's not for us to prescribe in that level of detail, so we provide the youth justice grant funding and monitor the system. If we find, as part of our monitoring, oversight and assurance work, that there is a need for improvement, we'll make recommendations to the service manager, to the chair of the management board and the chief executive of the local authority. But, ultimately, the make-up of the youth justice service comes under the responsibility of the local authority.
Okay. That's very helpful. Thank you, Darren. Alison Davies wanted to add.
Yes. I canvassed some of the opinions of YOT Managers Cymru for today's meeting, on the variation across Wales. There were two key things for them. They felt that there was a postcode lottery regarding services and specialist speech and language therapist provision, and they also felt that the issue was compounded further in north Wales due to the lack of Welsh-speaking speech and language therapists. So, those were two key points that they felt that needed to be brought to us today.
Thank you very much for that, Alison. Jane, I'm about to move on to what happens when young people are taken into custody. Did you want to come in on anything?
No, you asked the question I wanted to ask.
Okay, fine. So, this is not really a specialist service, in that 60 to 90 per cent of the young people who come into contact with youth justice are people who have speech, language and communication difficulties. So, could I just ask you, Amanda Blakeman, as you used the words 'specialist area', how your officers have been trained to deal with those day-to-day encounters, whether they're responding to incidents that they're trying to prevent escalating, or whether they're interviewing young people that they've felt the need to bring into a police station?
There are probably a few parts to that. If it is in terms of a general interaction within the community, as, for instance, a victim or a witness, then there will be a very clear position that our officers are trained around in terms of being able to interact, understand, and to check and test. We've done a lot of work around making sure that our officers read the signs, listen to the voice of the child, and take the opportunity to do the research in relation to the young person and their family at the point of contact so that we understand exactly what's going on for that young person, to make the appropriate referrals in and to make sure that we are, and have at the forefront of our mind, safeguarding throughout. Now, of course, a part of that is that ongoing communication with that young person, and we do, and continue to do, work with our officers around achieving best evidence. We have specialist officers that are trained around victim and witness interviewing where young people are either the witnesses or the victims in relation to a specific incident or a crime. If a young person comes into custody, there is a very specific set of rules that are followed, and safeguards and risk assessments that are followed as well that allow us to be able to continually be testing, checking and triangulating, as well as, as I've said, the appropriate adult scheme, which must be utilised with any young person that's come into custody.
For me, some of the areas that are particularly vulnerable here is when a person is over the age of 18, because the definition of a young person is up to the age of 25. So, that's an area that, clearly, we have to continue that focus on, but it doesn't have the additional safeguards around it in terms of appropriate adult schemes et cetera, unless we are defining, and health, within our custody facility, or triangulating or checking in relation to that person's background and history, or our interaction with that individual indicates that they specifically need that additional support within the custody provision or as a victim or as a witness. Certainly, intermediary services are available, and we utilise those. There are specific guidelines in relation to those. We do specific risk assessments in relation to young people coming through our custody environment.
I used the word 'specialist' because this is a complex area to which there are many facets, but the overarching principle that we try to train our officers in is one of listening to the voice of the child, thinking about the environment, the setting, the history, the background, and that ongoing communication to continually be checking and testing whether there is additional support that is needed that will have that additional expertise that needs to be present in an interview, either as a victim or a witness, or as somebody who has been accused of a particular crime, and then the referral into the specialist agency. What I would also say is the child-centred policing approach and the work that the deputy commissioners and the commissioners have undertaken across Wales to ensure that the ACE approach is evident, also that additional training that our officers have—that greater understanding in terms of young people—and the deputy police and crime commissioners may wish to expand upon that and the work that's been done.
In addition to that, if we do have a young person with us as a victim or a witness or, indeed, within our custody environment, we have officers that are trained to a higher level in terms of victim and witness interviewing, so that they're able to make sure that those additional provisions are present and available and utilised by young people, so that we're able to identify if there are any speech or language requirements. And all of that is developed over training that's accredited as part of their professionalisation in policing accreditation levels, which they do as investigators during the course of their probationary period and then, onwardly, as they become detectives and specialist investigators, which are set out by the College of Policing and that we adhere to, to ensure that our level of service is at an accredited level that absolutely understands and identifies all of these issues and other issues that a young person may be contending with at the point that we have contact with them.
Okay, you've already identified that people over the age of 18 don't need an appropriate adult to be present. That's not an obligation. What safeguards are there if you're interviewing somebody in that 18 to 25 age group who has a reading age and a language and communication understanding of maybe somebody aged 11? What are the safeguards there that this young person has any remote understanding of what it is they're signing up for?
So, we would try and identify that at the point of contact with them and within a risk assessment when they come into our custody environment. So, a comprehensive risk assessment's done as part of the procedure for accepting somebody in, to make sure that their detention is necessary and appropriate as per the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. And if we do pick up a vulnerability, then there is an obligation on us to provide that appropriate adult service. So, whilst it isn't a position for every single young adult aged between 18 and 25, at the point in risk assessment—and we do have additional services that we have employed within custody, with health professionals in there, in order to assist us around some of these risk assessment processes that we undertake—then as soon as we identify that, then we are able to make sure that the appropriate adult or the intermediary service is utilised as part of that person's ongoing detention. That has been comprehensively reviewed over the last many years and developed and built upon. So, the risk assessment process for somebody coming into custody now is quite comprehensive and it is all contained within our electronic custody management unit. So, there is a specific question-and-answer scenario that you have to go through with each individual and we refer to our health professionals within the custody environment as well, to make sure, if we can identify that with an 18 to 25-year-old young person coming through our custody facility, that we absolutely do pick that up and make sure that that provision is available.
So, the safeguard is that the station officer has to be involved if there's a young person under 25; it's not just the officer who's made the arrest. Or how does that work?
So, if we make a decision to take somebody's liberty and we bring them to the custody block, there is a custody sergeant who has to authorise that detention. It has to be done in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, it has to be necessary, it has to be appropriate and it has to fit a criteria in terms of securing and preserving evidence. So, there's a hurdle to go through before detention is authorised. And once detention is authorised there is a risk-assessment process that the custody sergeant goes through that they're specifically trained in on their course that they do and the assessment process that they undertake as a custody sergeant. In order to become signed up as competent in that role, there's a risk-assessment process that they go through that covers all of those areas, and we have that additional safeguard of the health professional who works in the custody environment, on a 24/7 basis, so that the custody sergeant is able to ask for additional opinion, additional assistance, in relation to anything that flags within that risk assessment that we feel needs that additional support.
Okay. Thank you, Amanda. Jane Dodds, you wanted to come in, then we'll go to Eleri.
Thank you, Chair. I think Emma also has her hand up, but I just wanted to come back to Amanda. And it really is a very, very brief answer; it's a 'yes' or 'no'. Are you confident that young people who have speech and language difficulties are identified? It's a 'yes' or 'no'. Are you confident, and if you're not, what's required to make sure that you are confident?
Yes, in the main. And that is because there is always a position in terms of risk assessment where somebody can present in such a way that it is really difficult to pick that up. That would be my answer. So, I know you say, 'Yes or no', but I would say, 'Yes, in the main', because risk assessments are—
So, no training required, no awareness raising, no nothing. You feel totally confident that a young person is identified, who comes through your custody suites, as having speech and language needs?
I wouldn't be as definitive as that, no, because I think there is always room for training, improvement, awareness, understanding, and that has got to be a continuing position, because we employ lots of new officers over the years, as we see some of our experience leave. So, it's got to be an ongoing training and development, so, I'm sorry, I wouldn't say 'yes' or 'no' to either.
Can I call Emma Wools in first, because I think I may have missed her? And then I'll go to you, Eleri. Emma.
Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to supplement something that the chief constable said in terms of the response in a custody suite in relation to that 18 to 25 cohort. So, in Gwent and south Wales, since 2019, we've had an early intervention diversionary service specifically set up to cater for young people and young adults, recongising the distinct need of that particular cohort. I have to say, through the active involvement that both myself and the deputy commissioner from Gwent have in relation to contract oversight of that service, we know that the expert third sector providers that we've commissioned, who are based within the custody suites across south Wales and Gwent, are proactively engaged with custody sergeants and operational front-line officers in terms of being able to provide advice and support. That's not just for young people that may be referred into the service, but, obviously, are there to be utilised as expertise and support in this field where police officers may not have that specialism.
Thanks, Chair. In addition as well to the points already made, I just wanted to reassure the committee, in relation to the question about safeguards, that we do have significant scrutiny in relation to young people who are detained in our police custody suites, through our youth justice services, and, in particular, where young people are accommodated over any period of time. So, I think there is significant scrutiny that takes place after the event, making sure that we understand, review and reflect on the services and the processes that have been put in place.
The other aspect that all of the police and crime commissioners also have is an independent custody visiting service. These are volunteers who are trained to spot-visit the custody suite, the custody environment, talk to individuals within that environment, and, again, offer that independent assurance about how we are supporting and respecting people when they are in contact with our services. And I think we don't often share the role of the independent custody visitor, but I know the independent custody visitors, in Gwent in particular, are always wanting to ensure that they check and test around the experience of children and young people in our custody environment.
Okay. Very briefly, because we do need to move on: for the three of you, the NHS in England often have dedicated speech and language therapists working in custody suites at police stations, is this something that's been considered in Wales? Eleri, do you want to go first?
To my knowledge, we haven't. As the chief constable has already mentioned, all of the policing services across Wales have health practitioners in the custody environment. But I would certainly welcome the opportunity to work with our NHS colleagues to explore how we might enhance that service, to think about the relationship. We've done a lot of work with Aneurin Bevan in making sure that we've got the liaison and the links between our health professionals in the custody environment aligned to our health professionals who are sitting in our force control room, who are also aligned to, then, the dedicated workers in Aneurin Bevan working to provide mental health support, for instance. So, in terms of where that support would be best sat, whether it's in the custody environment, in the specialist service, in the health board, or in a force-control-room environment, I think that's something I'd be very interested to explore.
What I should say is that we have a very good and positive relationship with Aneurin Bevan, who are also providing that—. I suppose, when we go back to that training and support, we've recognised that the community psychiatry department in Aneurin Bevan can play a vital role in coming and providing that additional specialist support to police officers who require it.
Thank you, Eleri. Does Emma or Amanda want to add anything regarding north Wales or south Wales? Very briefly, though, because we do need to move on. Emma.
Just to add, in Wales in totality, I think, there is an opportunity through the youth justice blueprint, so the collaboration and change programme of work between Welsh Government, UK Government, and obviously police and crime commissioners and the wider criminal justice system, to consider these other models in England as we move forward to developing services. So, I'm happy for us to take that away to our blueprint programme board as a potential consideration going forward.
Great, and I can see Amanda nodding, so that's great. Sarah Murphy wanted to come in.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, all, for being here this afternoon. I'm going to ask some questions now about courts and sentencing. So, in court, vulnerable witnesses with speech, language and communication needs have access to registered intermediaries. Section 33BA of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 extends such support to defendents who qualify for intermediary special measures. So, can you tell us a little bit more, please, about this provision and how that works? Who would like to go first?
Amanda Turner's indicating here.
I can give the perspective from youth justice. I know that obviously this service has to be requested by the solicitor on behalf of the young person, and then obviously if it's granted, it's appointed by the court. From speaking to our colleagues around Wales, my understanding is that this service is patchy, with some courts experiencing good implementation of it, whilst other areas are not so good. I think where it has been implemented, the feedback that I've had from colleagues is that it's been really worthwhile good practice. From Neath Port Talbot's point of view, we've had one young person who's had access to intermediaries for a trial, and again this was a really beneficial experience for this young person, based on the fact that they had identified speech and language needs as well as some mental health concerns. So, from our limited experience, when it's implemented it's a really good service, but the uptake or the implementation is patchy.
Thank you very much—that's really helpful. Eleri wanted to come in next.
Yes, it was just to say that I don't think policing colleagues could offer a view on the courts and sentencing. That's outside of our jurisdiction, and we would be very much going into the jurisdiction of the courts, but I know that our colleagues in His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, as well as the youth custody service, would be very keen to engage with the committee. So, it's not a reluctance to respond; it would be outside of our remit to do so.
I thought that might be the case, as I was going through this section. Thank you, Eleri. If you do want to come in, though, then please feel free to. Darren, did you want to come in on this at all?
The Youth Justice Board's position would be the same as Eleri's. I can't comment, or I'm not in a position to comment on the operation of the court. I think that is for HM Courts and Tribunals Service. I would say, from the Youth Justice Board perspective, that I think I'm confident in the quality of pre-sentencing reports that are provided by the youth justice services to the courts, to help advise the court around the specific child that is there in front of them, and also the support that youth justice workers provide, actually, in the court as well. So, from that perspective, I think there's good advocacy for children, but, in terms of that specific aspect of court process, I'm not qualified to comment.
That's okay. Just to follow up, then, as you did mention the pre-sentencing reports, because we've been doing this inquiry as well into women in the criminal justice system, and we did find that they weren't always being seen, for whatever reason, whether they weren't requested, or they weren't done. So, in terms of youth justice, who does the pre-sentencing reports?
Provided by the youth justice service.
Right. And do you know of any cases where sometimes they aren't being done or they aren't being seen by the magistrates beforehand?
I don't know of specific cases, but I can tell you we have a working group established between us, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and other professionals from within the youth court arena—including magistrates—called the youth court issues group, which is there specifically to talk about any operational aspects or issues that may appear from the court system. I can't recall that coming up as a specific issue or a systemic issue.
Okay. You could write to us, perhaps, if you're able to, when you've had a chance to look at your notes.
Yes. We can follow up on that, but that's really helpful. Thank you.
And I would say, actually, the focus within youth justice in Wales is on prevention and pre-court diversion, and, as a result, what you tend to have are quite low volumes of cases going to court now, and certainly through to progress into custody. And so, as a result, the vast majority of children are actually managed within the community.
Okay. Thank you very much. My next question for you all is, if you all want to come in: are you satisfied that youth offending teams staff are equipped with the tools and skills they need to identify young people with speech, language and communication needs and to ensure appropriate adaptations are made during the court process?
I think that's you, Darren, isn't it?
Yes, and I think, in relation to what I've said previously, 'yes', broadly. I think the services have the skills, they have the tools. I think, as others have said, there's always—nothing is perfect; there's always room where we can try and improve, but I think, broadly, 'yes'. And I think that is perhaps partly backed up by evidence of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in that the majority of children with speech, language, communication needs, they are not identified by mainstream services. They come to awareness as a result of coming into the youth justice system. And I think while it's laudable that the professionals within the youth justice system have those skills, for me, that feels like it's the wrong way round.
Can I come in as well?
And just as a follow-up as well, what happens if the screening tool does identify that a young person may have a speech, language, communication need? Is the sentencing then delayed until they're referred and assessed by an SLT to determine the extent of their problem?