The relationship between SEND and offending in the UK Youth Justice System

hannah smithson event

Presented by the Social Policy Research Centre and
the Intellectual Disability Behaviour Support Program

Why do we still find undiagnosed SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) issues in children who have been through the whole education system? How can they be missed?

The overall number of children and young people entering the UK youth justice system has fallen year-on-year over the last decade. Ministry of Justice figures also show that the number of young people in youth custody is at an all-time low. While these figures should be recognised as a positive trend, the reality is that there remain stark contrasts in social divisions among young people who have contact with the youth justice system. Young people with a special educational need and disability (SEND) are disproportionately represented. Young people with a SEND are five-times more likely to enter the criminal justice system, with 18 per cent of sentenced young people in custody having a statement of special educational needs, according to a 2011 Department for Education study. 

Hannah’s lecture will draw on findings from a Department of Education commissioned project looking at service provision for young people with SEND in the youth justice system. She will draw on findings from a survey sent to each Youth Offending Team in England (240 responses) and 40 interviews undertaken with children and young people currently in the youth justice system with a SEND diagnosis.

Hannah Smithson is Professor of Criminology and Youth Justice at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. She is Head of the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and leads a programme of research in the field of youth justice which continues to shape key policy debates in the UK. Hannah is currently working on a project commissioned by the UK government’s Department of Education (DfE) looking at service provision for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the youth justice system. Hannah is a member of the Youth Justice Board’s Academic Roundtable for Partnership Working and an expert member of the UK government Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) Evaluation Consultation Group. She sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Youth Studies (Taylor and Francis).

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