Dr. Ivan Pitman, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist at The Disabilities Trust, shares his comments following the Neurodiversity evidence review round table event held on Wednesday, February 10, 2021.

I am very pleased to have been invited to attend today’s virtual ‘Neurodiversity evidence review round-table event’ organised by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. This follows our work over the past 20 years and which culminated in the UK Governments formal acknowledgment in Parliament in June 2018 of the widespread prevalence of Brain Injury within the Criminal Justice System; a milestone in acceptance which we were proud to of reached with our colleagues in the sector.

Our work at The Disabilities Trust has shown that Brain Injury in adult males, women and adolescents within Criminal Justice System is up to five times higher than the general population, a figure too pointed to be ignored. Our research confirmed what has long been suspected clinically; that the incidence of neuro-divergence within adult offenders is significantly higher than within general population. Following this, our team has been working to model how small adaptations within the Criminal Justice System can make a huge difference in the lives of individual’s with Brain Injuries, enabling positive engagement with rehabilitation programmes and prevent further victims of crime.

Over recent years, we have promoted a Neuropsychological Informed approach to support neurodiversity within the Criminal Justice System. This approach has the philosophy that, rather than attempting to ‘cure’ the individual of an impaired neurocognitive functioning, the aim is help them to find ways of living that are more in harmony with their natural neurological dispositions through adaptations to their environment, adjustments in the demands placed upon their performance and modifications in any desired or expected outcomes. As we have developed this work, I have overseen the provision of specialist Brain Injury Linkworkers to 14 prisons, been involved in the training of over 2000 staff and our Brain Injury Linkworkers have provided direct intensive one to one support to over 500 individuals.

We value that at last the cognitive, emotional and behavioural differences caused by Brain Injury, an acquired neurodiverse condition, is to be recognised and included with the current Neurodiversity Call for Evidence set out by the Lord Chancellor. Our work to date has shown that if the Criminal Justice System can ask, understand and adapt to support neurodiverse individuals we can ensure better pathways to rehabilitation.

Ask - the systematic screening and identification of neuro-diversity at all stages within the Criminal Justice System

Understand - the impact of impaired neuro-cognitive functioning upon neurodivergent individuals and their cognitive, behavioural and emotional presentation to enable better-targeted interventions.

Adapt – the adaptation of procedures within the wider Criminal Justice System to ensure effective and accessible management, education and rehabilitation of neurodivergent offenders.

I am very proud of the work that we as a team have accomplished over the past decade and our accomplishments to date are a true combined effort of all. We will continue to promote identification, understanding and acceptance of those living with acquired neurocognitive differences who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System.