Offender unit set to be nation's first.Byline: By Jane Picken
Youths with special needs in focus
A pioneering secure unit for young offenders with learning difficulties could be opened at a Tyneside hospital.
If it gets the go-ahead, the six-bed centre will be home to offenders with special needs and mental health conditions aged 17 and under.
It will also offer help to youngsters who have not offended but are showing danger signs and will be the first of its kind in the country.
Plans are only in the initial stages but the unit could open as part of the existing Roycroft Unit at St Nicholas' Hospital in Gosforth as early as next year. That unit currently provides specialist services for young offenders with mental health problems.
The proposals, drawn up by Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Trust National Health Service Trusts (NHS Trusts) provide many services of the National Health Service in England and Wales. They are not trusts in the legal sense but are in effect public sector corporations. , will go to the National Specialist Commissioning Advisory Group next month before a decision on funding is made.
Experts believe there are gaps in care for troubled youngsters with learning difficulties who fall foul of the law in the region.
Kate Simpson Simp·son , Sir James Young 1811-1870.
British obstetrician and a founder of gynecology. He is also known for introducing the use of chloroform as an anesthetic. , interim leader for disability services at the trust, explained: "The Roycroft will not accept young offenders with learning disabilities, only those with mental problems. So such youngsters end up in prisons or other parts of the youth justice system."
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. figures from the trust, between 15% and 33% of offenders in adolescent ad·o·les·cent
Of, relating to, or undergoing adolescence.
A young person who has undergone puberty but who has not reached full maturity; a teenager. medium-secure units in the North East have some sort of learning disability. This could be as many as 26 children coming into the units every year.
About 5% of offenders between April 2005 and March 2006 were found to have learning difficulties according to the probation probation, method by which the punishment of a convicted offender is conditionally suspended. The offender must remain in the community and under the supervision of a probation officer, who is usually a court-appointed official. service, and youth offending teams (YOTs) across the region work to identify criminal aged 17 and under who have problems.
A spokesman for Newcastle's YOT said: "We currently work with a number of young people who have learning difficulties, although this is not a significantly common problem.
"We don't have any overall figures on how many young offenders have learning difficulties. Each case is dealt with individually.
"Sometimes we also find young offenders come to the service with an undiagnosed learning difficulty. When this happens we have a referral system which makes sure they get the appropriate assessments."
Gateshead YOT operational manager Sue Searles said: "We find that a percentage of young offenders have obstacles to learning.
"We work with a wide range of agencies to provide additional support to those young people but would certainly welcome more specific work targeted at these youngsters to support their development."