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Funding success for project focusing on autism in the criminal justice system

university of cumbria logoThe University of Cumbria has received funding of £70,000 from the CRH Charitable Trust towards a unique research project which will investigate the issues of autism and the criminal justice system.

As part of the project the university will be working in partnership with ‘Cumbria Reducing Offending Partnership Trust’ (CROPT) and their ‘Triple A – All About Autism’ project.  By working together, the two-year research initiative will seek to change clinical practice within Cumbria, receive national recognition via publication of any findings, and lay foundations for more formalised means of support. The project uniquely combines the university’s academic and educational experience with CROPT’s knowledge of autism community needs.

Initially, the research will focus on identifying barriers within the criminal justice system faced by people with autism and which interventions are helpful or should be avoided in supporting people with the condition.  This research will go on to form the basis for informed interventions that aim to reduce the number of individuals on the autism spectrum coming into destructive, avoidable and unnecessary conflict with figures of authority in the criminal justice system.

Dr Keith Hyde, Trustee, was pleased to offer his support to the project, saying “The CRH Charitable Trust is committed to improving mental health in the North West and this project will support research that identifies current issues; informs and influences practice through education and local engagement; and develops specific, relevant approaches to address the vulnerability of those on the autistic spectrum involved in the criminal justice system.”

There are currently around 700,000 people in the UK on the autism spectrum, and including their families equates to around 2.8 million individuals experiencing this condition on a daily basis. The National Autistic Society has already highlighted the high risk of autistic people coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

Dr Louise Nelson, Head of Nursing, Health and Professional Practice at the University of Cumbria said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in supporting this research post, looking at identifying barriers within the criminal justice system faced by people with autism,  it adds value to the department, particularly our learning disability and autism programmes. We are very keen to develop this research, as this whole area is a significant concern for those on the autistic spectrum and their families.”

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