Autism screening to improve criminal justice system

26 August 2016

CWP has begun working towards national accreditation as part of plans to increase awareness of autism in the criminal justice system.

Our Forensics department have teamed up with the National Autistic Society (NAS) to improve screening for autism at Cheshire’s custody suites and prevent those with the learning difficulty from re-offending.

It is the first time NAS have partnered with a community forensic service, having previously worked with a number of prisons. The charity’s work with HM Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham found that 4.5% of the institute’s young offenders were autistic.

As part of their application for NAS Autism Accreditation, CWP plans to implement screening measures whereby everyone who enters the custody process is assessed for autism using a tailored questionnaire. Individuals who require support will then be referred to the most relevant team.

The Trust hopes to introduce this new process across Cheshire from September.

CWP Special Forensic Lead Gordon Leonard said: “It’s all about identifying autism at the earliest possible opportunity, so that adjustments can be put in place to support people during their time within the criminal justice system.

“Currently, individuals are not being identified as autistic, so struggle during their time in prison and often re-offend when they return to society.

“By raising awareness of autism and improving standards, we hope to break this cycle and improve outcomes for people with autism.”

Recent NAS research shows that simple changes, like familiarising staff with autism and creating calming environments can make a huge difference to someone with autism during their time in prison. The charity hopes that work with CWP will improve peoples’ experience prior to entering prison or help them to avoid entering prison altogether.

NAS Criminal Justice Manager Clare Hughes said: “We’ve chosen to work with CWP because they have already shown numerous examples of good practice, as well as a real commitment to improving circumstances for autistic people.

“We look forward to working closely with CWP over the next few years and fully support them in their work towards NAS Autism Accreditation.”

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was rated as ‘Outstanding’ for services for people with learning disabilities or autism during an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Use our 'Find Services' online tool to find autism services in your area. To get involved with NAS, search ‘Accreditation’ at

Photo: CWP Specialist Forensic Lead Gordon Leonard welcomes Clare Hughes of the National Autistic Society to Saddlebridge Recover Centre


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