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Children in prison twice as likely to have special needs

A recent article published by The Independent states that children in prison are twice as like to have special needs.

Data from the Ministry of Justice reveals 30 per cent of children who entered custody over 2018-19 were assessed as having special educational needs or disabilities. Separate government data shows that less than 15 per cent of children nationally fall into this category.

Experts have commented that this discrepancy highlights the failure of educational and other services to properly provide for children with special educational needs or disabilities, within the community.

These striking figures reiterate the need for a child with special educational needs to have an Education Health and Care Plan in place. An Education Health and Care Plan is a legal document that describes a child's special educational needs, the support they require to meet those needs and how that help will support the child to achieve what they want to in their life. 

Unfortunately, all too often children with special educational needs are not supported by their Local Authority and do not have an Educational Health and Care Plan in place. As such these children are not receiving the support they require within an educational setting and are being excluded from school. Pupils who receive an exclusion it is likely to have a very significant and detrimental impact on their ability to engage in education and their future prospects.

Increasingly, children who have non-apparent disabilities – meaning those not immediately visible, such as learning disabilities, autism or mental health are routinely criminalised rather than given the education they require.

Carolyne Willow, director of children's charity Article 39, commented that the figures indicated that youth prisons had become the only institutions not turning away very vulnerable children, as they are a much cheaper option. Willow adds that sending a "child who is known to have special educational needs to a seriously under-resourced institution where self-harm, physical restraint, and solitary confinement are commonplace is indefensible".

Dr. Tim Bateman, Chair of the National Association for Youth Justice, echoed Willows concerns and added: -

"The fact that children with special educational needs are vastly overrepresented in the custodial estate…is a testimony to the previous failure of educational and other services to properly provide for such children in the community."

The overarching message throughout this The Independent article is the need for children, who have special educational needs, to receive the support they require. Local Authorities have an obligation to provide those children with special educational needs with an Education, Health and Care Plan. Further, Local Authorities must maintain and enforce this document to ensure that all necessary provision is put in place to help meet the needs of the child to progress academically and remain in school.

If you are experiencing difficulties in relation to exclusion, Special Educational Needs or otherwise then please do not hesitate to contact our specialist education solicitors on 0333 202 7175