National Autistic Society team with Justice Minister

  • Accredited organisations have been working with the National Autistic Society over the past three years to improve their autism practice across every area of prison and probation
  • Justice Minister Edward Argar has called on other prisons and probation divisions to follow suit
  • Three more prisons are currently working towards accreditation 

Huge congratulations to the National Probation Service in Lancashire, HMP Wakefield and HMP Parc for achieving National Autistic Society Autism Accreditation.

Justice Minister Edward Argar announced their success at a special event at the Ministry of Justice this week (22 November), where he presented the awards to each of the organisations and called on other prisons and probation divisions to follow suit. 

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. 

HMP Wakefield with Justice Minister

HMP Wakefield with Justice Minister Edward Argar 

Each organisation has been working with us over the past three years to improve their autism practice across every area of prison and probation, with the aim of identifying the specific issues faced by autistic people in the criminal justice system as early as possible. Research suggests autistic prisoners represent some of the most vulnerable people in the offender population.

This involves things like familiarising staff with autism, helping them to understand the meaning behind the behaviour of some autistic people, and developing strategies to prevent misunderstandings and incidents.

HMP Parc service with Justice Minister Edward Argar

HMP Parc with Justice Minister Edward Argar 

Many people across the country go through the criminal justice system without knowing they are autistic and without others understanding their difficulties. This can make prison and probation extremely challenging for them and the staff too. Autistic people can have communication difficulties, be 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.

The accreditation process aims to address this by familiarising staff with autism, helping them to understand the meaning behind the behaviour of some autistic people, and developing strategies to prevent misunderstandings and incidents. 

At Parc, the prison 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 various places, including at a local secure hospital, to improve the way they work with autistic people. And Wakefield prison is translating all documents into an easy-to-read format to make them more accessible to autistic offenders. 

group photo of Lancashire probation team

National Probation Service in Lancashire with Justice Minister Edward Argar

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.”

Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, Carol Povey said: "We’re delighted to accredit the National Probation Service in Lancashire, HMP Wakefield and HMP 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.”

Another three prisons are currently working towards Autism Accreditation. They will be reviewed to see if they can also be accredited over the next 12-18 months. HMP Whatton will be reviewed next, early next year.

Further information 

We have been running Autism Accreditation for over 25 years and first worked with HMYOI Feltham a number of years ago to develop accreditation 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 three years.

Find out about Autism Accreditation

Find out more about autism and the criminal justice system