Two-thirds of children in custody have special educational needs and disabilities, says Hampshire charity

TWO-THIRDS of all children being held in custody have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), a charity said.
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The Disability Union, a which fights for disability diversity, inclusion and awareness, believes SEND children are falling into the criminal system after becoming disillusioned with life at school.

Now, the charity is calling for an overhaul of the national curriculum and further investment into early intervention for children.

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The Disability Union's strategic development officer, Kirsty Smillie, said: ‘Undiagnosed children might feel overwhelmed with sensory overload, the amount of people, the different classrooms, the bigger buildings.

'This can be very traumatic and can often lead to school refusal right from the onset of secondary school. Children who feel different from their peers can often withdraw or become frustrated and this then can lead to challenging behaviour.

'It is crucial that if a child is demonstrating difficulty with reading, writing and numeracy skills, the school has provision to explore why - it could be dyslexia, autism, ADHD - there are a vast number of reasons why a child might be disengaged.'

Prior to working for the charity, Ms Smillie was an anti-social behaviour officer for a borough council.

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She says that the majority of children getting involved in crime either have poor school attendance or have been excluded.

This disassociation with their peers can be a driving force.

'If an institution caters for your peers but not you, it can make you feel inadequate,' she said.

'Not fitting into society would make anyone feel like an outcast and have consequences, like entering into a pattern of crime.

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'Society has let these children down and will continue to do so unless their is a complete overhaul of the national curriculum, increased financial support for schools and an investment in early intervention.'

Earlier this year, a report from Hampshire's youth offending team noted that the number of children in custody has fallen by 70 per cent.

This has come about through the team working to have young offenders put through intervention sessions, rather than spending time behind bars.

Head of the youth offending team, Nikki Shave, labelled this as the 'most important part' of the team's work.

The office for police and crime commissioner Donna Jones was contacted for comment.