Press release

First ever autism awards for Category A prison and probation division

Accreditation follows intensive inspection and hundreds of hours of training.

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  • Justice Minister Edward Argar calls on other prisons and probation divisions to follow suit
  • 3 more prisons working towards accreditation in coming months

After an intensive inspection process and hundreds of hours of specialist training, the National Autistic Society (NAS) has awarded its prestigious ‘Autism Accreditation’ to HMP/YOI Parc, HMP Wakefield and the National Probation Service in Lancashire.

Wakefield is the first Category A prison to be accredited while Parc is the first prison in Wales to receive accreditation. Lancashire is the first National Probation Service division to receive the award.

Parc has established a dedicated unit for prisoners with learning difficulties at which specialist autism support is provided, including for education and physical activity, and autistic offenders are mentored by other prisoners throughout their sentence.

Probation staff in Lancashire received specialist training at a local hospital to get experience of working with autistic people – this understanding is used to better support autistic offenders as they are released. At the same time, Wakefield is translating all documents into an easy-to-read format to make them more accessible to autistic offenders.

Justice Minister Edward Argar said:

Prison and probation staff are responsible for supervising some of the most vulnerable people in society, many of whom have complex needs.

This prestigious award demonstrates a real gold standard of provision and it takes years of commitment and hard-work to reach the high standards required.

I want to pay tribute to the dedicated staff who have partnered with the National Autistic Society to support autistic offenders and I want to see more awards of this kind.

The National Autistic Society has been running Autism Accreditation for over 25 years and started working with HMP/YOI Feltham to develop standards for prisons. Feltham then became the first prison in the world to be accredited in 2015. Accredited status is monitored, and a full re-assessment must take place after 3 years.

The 3 institutions will formally be awarded accreditation at an event at the Ministry of Justice today at which both Youth Justice Minister Edward Argar and NAS Director, Carol Povey will make a short speech thanking the staff involved.

Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, Carol Povey said:

We’re delighted to accredit National Probation Service in Lancashire, HMP Wakefield and HMP/YOI Parc – and that the Minister could help us mark this important moment.

Prison and probation staff have worked incredibly hard to adapt and improve their practice – and this is already making a difference to the autistic people they work with.

We hope that their achievements will encourage other prisons, probation and police services to work with us and improve their own autism practice.

There are an estimated 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, but many of them lead their lives undiagnosed. For those who then enter the criminal justice system, prison can be extremely challenging. Autistic people can have communication difficulties, they are often hypersensitive to busy environments, sounds, bright lights or smells and may depend on routines.

If someone’s disability is not identified, it’s much harder to recognise and meet their needs, reduce the likelihood of them reoffending and help them deal with any issues effectively.

Notes to editors

The National Autistic Society

  • The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. Founded in 1962, it provides information, support and pioneering services, and campaigns for a better world for people on the autism spectrum.
  • Autism Accreditation was established in 1992. It is the UK’s only autism-specific quality assurance programme of support and development for all those providing services to autistic people. It is a way for organisations to show they offer excellent support to autistic children and adults.
  • To find out more about autism or the National Autistic Society, visit www.autism.org.uk.
Published 22 November 2018