We know from research that at least 60% of the young people involved in the youth justice system are likely to have communication needs. It is therefore safe to assume that any young person you are working with has communication needs until it is proven otherwise.

The following are some examples of typical every-day situations to show just how much of your work relies on communication and language skills.

Please click on the relevant section to view the information.

The police interview

During interview, young people are usually accompanied by an appropriate adult and a solicitor and will be questioned by two officers.

The young person must:

  • Answer questions, remembering to take into account legal advice
  • Re-tell what happened in the right order with as much information as possible
  • Manage to communicate clearly whilst under stress
  • Read and sign their statement

A court appearance

During a court appearance, a young person must be able to:

  • Talk to court staff in an appropriate way
  • Discuss the offence with a solicitor, re-telling what happened and why, and how they feel about it
  • Read out the oath in court
  • Understand what is happening and the language being used
  • Understand and remember what to do next (e.g. released on bail with conditions; attend appointment with YOT etc)
  • Understand the consequences if they do not follow the court’s instructions

Think about the language you are using:

Speech and Language Therapists working with Bradford YOT and Milton Keynes YOT have identified that significant numbers of young people do not understand some of the language used in court. Using alternatives to the following words and phrases, or explaining what they mean, will help all young people to understand what is happening to them. For example: instead of using the word “custody” use “prison” and rather than say “adjourn” say “the court hearing has been stopped for now and will begin again on X day”.

  • Actions
  • Adjourn
  • Alleged
  • Attack
  • Attend
  • Bail
  • Breach
  • Circumstance
  • Compensation
  • Comply
  • Concurrent
  • Conditional /unconditional
  • Contract
  • Conviction
  • Convince
  • Custody
  • Defence
  • Failing to attend
  • Guilty/ Not Guilty
  • Impose
  • “In your defence”
  • Legal advisor
  • Liable
  • Magistrate
  • Offence
  • Punish
  • Punishment
  • Relevant
  • Remorse
  • Reparation
  • Report
  • Responsible
  • Revocation
  • Solicitor
  • Statement
  • Supervision
  • Threatening
  • Usher
  • Victim

Referred to a Youth Offending Team

During an ASSET assessment interview the young person needs to be able to:

  • Arrive at the appointment on time
  • Introduce themselves
  • Remember who they are meeting and why
  • Discuss the offence, re-telling what happened and why with as much information as possible and in the right order
  • Recall information accurately about themselves and key life experiences (e.g. education and schooling)
  • Read and understand their order

A custodial sentence

During a health assessment in a YOI, the young person has to recall past information and answer questions about their health and give consent for treatment. The young person needs to be able to: Listen and understand

  • Answer questions
  • Ask questions relevant to the assessment
  • Read forms and other information
  • Be able to formulate relevant information from the past into sentences that make sense