Identifying and responding to people with mild learning disabilities in the probation service


It has long been recognised that, like many other individuals, people with learningdisabilities find their way into the criminal justice system. This fact is not disputed. Whathas been disputed, however, is the extent to which those with learning disabilities arerepresented within the various agencies of the criminal justice system and the ways inwhich the criminal justice system (and society) should address this. Recently, social andlegislative confusion over the best way to deal with offenders with learning disabilities andmental health problems has meant that the waters have become even more muddied.Despite current government uncertainty concerning the best way to support offenders withlearning disabilities, the probation service is likely to continue to play a key role in thesupervision of such offenders. The three studies contained herein aim to clarify the extentto which those with learning disabilities are represented in the probation service, toexamine the effectiveness of probation for them and to explore some of the ways in whichprobation could be adapted to fit their needs.Study 1 and study 2 showed that around 10% of offenders on probation in Kent appearedto have an IQ below 75, putting them in the bottom 5% of the general population. Study 3was designed to assess some of the support needs of those with learning disabilities in theprobation service, finding that many of the materials used by the probation service arelikely to be too complex for those with learning disabilities to use effectively. To addressthis, a model for service provision is tentatively suggested. This is based on the findings ofthe three studies and a pragmatic assessment of what the probation service is likely to becapable of achieving in the near future

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