I recently attended The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) launch of THE BOX. It was marketed as a ‘screening tool‘ for Criminal Justice Service (CJS) professionals working with offenders with speech, language and communication difficulties (SLCD).
However, during the launch presenters described how some clients, who having worked with their CJS professional to complete THE BOX, and results suggest some SLCD, would not need to be referred to a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT). It was stated that their needs could be met by CJS professionals who have attended THE BOX training.
I was not alone in my discomfort of such a statement. From my perspective, a retired head teacher who has argued for the rights of vulnerable children and young people involved with the CJS, such a message raised concerns in me for both professional and client.
I understand the pressures and expectations placed on those working with this demanding population and the smallest mistake can spiral out of control. CJS professionals face many demands in their role. Expecting them to make judgements about who should or who should not have access to a SLT is outside their professional training and expertise and has potential for serious consequences.
Assessments and advice from registered SLTs are essential for both defence professionals, presenting needs of clients, and those professionals responsible for the risk management of offenders.
These concerns were made to the presenters, but the response was that the courts respected judgments made by CJS professionals – there is no question that the courts should not respect judgements and report findings offered by CJS. However, it is important to remember that Court Reports CJS professionals present are made up of assessments and advice from professionals and experts who know best a client’s skills and needs e.g. specialist teachers, specialist doctors, social workers and SLTs.
If a client appears to have health difficulties an appropriately qualified medical professional is required to make an assessment. The health difficulty could impact on their ability to be interviewed or attend court without specific support in place, this information would be fed into any Court Report.
When a client works through THE BOX with a CJS professional and results suggest SLCD, the same principle should apply. SLT’s are the appropriately qualified professionals to make the required assessment. Information and advice from that assessment will be fed into any Court Report presented by CJS professionals. The assessment will advise whether a client’s difficulties will impact on their ability to fully engage in interviews, court procedures or any intervention programme without specific support.
………..any tool that helps CJS professionals to support and manage clients is welcomed……….but beware………..take all safety precautions and only use the tools you are qualified to ………..