21 February 2023

The RCSLT has provided evidence to the Justice Select Committee calling for action

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has recently submitted evidence to the Justice Select Committee and called for changes to the training prison staff receive on speech, language and communication needs and other vulnerabilities. We recommend that training is taken as part of the staff induction programme and refreshed regularly.

Evidence suggests that over 60% of people in prisons have speech, language, and communication needs (Bryan, 2004, Bryan, 2007) (McNamara, 2012), a higher figure than found in the general population. However, despite the prevalence of these vulnerabilities, and the growing numbers of people with complex mental and physical health needs, prison staff receive limited training on these vulnerabilities including speech language and communication needs.

Due to the high prevalence of speech, language and communication needs and other complex needs in the prison population, the entire prison workforce must be able to recognise these vulnerabilities and understand how to respond to people with these needs.

Failure to appropriately support people in prison can result in: behaviour that challenges; disruptive, aggressive or violent behaviour; increasing self-harm; and increased use of physical intervention.

The submission also highlights that:

  • the provision of speech and language therapy in prisons across the UK has increased over the last 10 years. Evidence demonstrates the benefits of such provision, and positive progress has been made with the inclusion of speech, language and communication needs and autism into the Unlocked Graduates programme. However, not all prison staff enter prisons via this route. (Chief Medical Officer, 2012; Coles et al., 2017; Snow et al., 2017; N. R. Swain, 2017; Nathaniel R. Swain et al., 2020; K. Turner et al., 2019; Woodward et al., 2019).
  • screening processes in prisons are still ineffective, and there is no nationally used screening tool for communication needs. This has resulted in massive gaps in identification. Prison staff are often unaware of how to best engage with and support a person.

You can read our submission in full (external link)


Further details

Enquiries to the RCSLT from prison staff and governors looking to find out more about communication needs, have been rising.

We have developed a training package called The Box, which can help provide prison staff with practical strategies to respond to and support individuals with speech, language, and communication needs. More information about The Box can be found on our website.

To start learning with The Box today, visit The Box training website.