Things to try

Try some of the following in your communications with the young people you work with.  You can share additional advice by posting on our forum.

Whenever you are speaking to a young person, always start by using their name so that they understand you are talking to them.

Please click here to download the poster which displays the information below. Please print and display where appropriate.*

Use simple language

“You have been remanded in custody” could be changed to “you’re going to stay here in prison until the next time you are in X court on X day, which is X weeks away”

Use short chunks of language

Only include the important points: “you’re staying here for now” pause “the court will decide if you are guilty or not guilty” pause “we will find out about that in 4 weeks time”

Speak a little slower than you would normally do

This will help them to listen to what you are saying

Ask the young person to repeat back in their own words what you have said

This will check that they have understood what they have to do or have to remember

Give pointers for what they should listen to

“It’s important you remember X from what I am going to tell you”

Give an overview first

Summarise where necessary before you go into detail

Give extra time for the young person to listen and process

This will help them to understand what you have said

Use visual aids to support understanding

You could draw or number things as you explain something or ask them to picture it in their head

Give reminders of appointments

Contact them 24 hours before to remind them

Give a variety of tasks

This will help to maintain interest

Give positive messages

“It’s OK to say if you don’t understand” or “it’s important you tell me if you don’t understand”

Give positive feedback

But be sensitive as some people find praise difficult to accept

Ask them what would help them

Asking them and/or their parents what would help them understand or be better supported will help find the best approach

Say when you have not understood what has been said

“I’m not sure I’ve got that right… did X happen first? Then what?”

Make written materials simple and clear

Avoid using complicated terminology and use a clear font such as Arial


* The poster is designed to print onto A3 paper, please select the appropriate setting when printing.