People with a learning disability can be drawn in by others, coerced into committing crime. They can easily end up in prison. At Mersey Care a team works closely with the police and other partners to divert vulnerable people away from the courts and prison and give them the help they need to live ordinary lives.
A person with a learning disability commits a crime. What does society do? Send them to prison?
We should all have the chance to live ordinary lives, with family, or in a home of our own, with friends and networks of people around us. However people with a learning disability can sometimes be vulnerable and open to exploitation.
Mersey Care’s Forensic Support Service steps in when a person has offended or is identified by police, probation or other services as being at risk of offending, gaining the person’s trust is a priority. They may never have been formally assessed, they might be reluctant to accept a label of learning disability, as there’s a stigma that comes with it.
We get to know the family and the community teams stay close to the person all the time, looking out for signs of problems and contacting us so we can respond quickly. We often have to think outside the box to encourage people to engage in assessments. It can take time and lots of effort to build up a rapport with them.
This story could have had a very different ending. Jordan was in trouble with the police; the family was in turmoil. It wasn’t until he was 18 that he was diagnosed with autism. In the intervening years he struggled at school, relentlessly bullied. “It felt like we were sending him on a bus to the lion’s den,” said Debi, Jordan’s mum.
“He’d go out fine and come back completely different; he seemed to mimic the people he’d been with and sometimes that meant aggression. We knew he was buying people’s friendships and we found out he was being financially exploited.”
Lancashire police became involved with the family. It was a frustrating situation; the family bonds were being torn apart, yet although Jordan was committing crimes he always responded with respect when challenged.
The police asked Mersey Care to assess Jordan. The team were surprised at the assessment results which showed clearly that Jordan had a learning disability which had never been picked up.
If Jordan had gone before a court he might be in prison now, with all the trauma and funding that it involves. Jordan needed a chance to live independently with everyone worked together and is now living a few miles away.