Screening and assessment in the youth justice system


Assessment for Speech, Language and Communication Needs: 

Young people in the youth justice system


Speech, language and communication difficulties are not always obvious in children and young adolescents, and they are often well practised in ‘camouflaging’ such problems, particularly in official and more formal situations. This then makes the young person appear bored, disinterested or reluctant/resistant to engage in the criminal justice process.

It is essential to identify any form of communication difficulty as early as possible and ensure the young person is supported, (directly or indirectly), so that they can engage meaningfully within the justice process, ultimately reducing the risk of re-offending.

The following assessment tools contain a Speech, Language and Communication Need (SLCN) screening element, used throughout the Youth Justice System of England and Wales:

Assessment tool(s) used both in custody and community settings


Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool (CHAT):

A single tool for the screening of health and well-being needs for use across the youth justice system. There is one version for community settings and another for custodial settings. CHAT has been developed by the Offender Health Research Network as part of the programme of work under the Healthy children, safer communities strategy.


Assessment tool(s) used primarily in community settings


ASSET PLUS: Speech, language, communication and neuro-disability screening tool

The Youth Justice Board has released the speech, language and neurodisability tool from AssetPlus as an Early Practice Change Tool. The SLCN screening tool will help practitioners identify any speech, language and communication needs in young people. It is based on the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ (RCSLT) screening tool.

Youth offending teams (YOTs) with dedicated speech and language therapists have also developed their own bespoke tools for SLCN screening and identification.

Please note: Although these screening tools may specifically be used to identify SLCN, they do not in any way substitute a comprehensive assessment completed by a speech and language therapist. If a speech difficulty is identified, referral should be made to a speech and language therapist for a much more comprehensive assessment.

Other tools for the identification of physical, emotional and mental health, and substance misuse are also utilised in order to understand and the extent to which these health needs are associated with the likelihood of further offending. As a result, physical health problems are often overlooked and hidden disabilities such as speech and language difficulties may not be identified.

Find out more on Assessment forms used in the youth justice system from Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

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