I speak as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on speech and language difficulties, so my primary concern is that people will have their freedom taken away simply because they cannot be understood rather than due to a mental capacity problem. The Minister will know that this is a big problem, with something like 10% of children entering school having a speech or language difficulty. Some 60% of young people in the criminal justice system have a speech or language difficulty, and yet speech and language therapy reduces reoffending from 39% to 26%, so it is a cost-effective intervention at that stage and would be even more cost-effective beforehand. Some 81% of children with emotional and behavioural disorders have unidentified language difficulties. Left untreated, 33% of children with speech and language difficulties develop a mental illness, and half of them commit crimes.
In other words, it is important to identify and provide support for people in such situations because, as we have already heard, it can cost £13,000 a week to keep someone incarcerated, but that may be happening simply because they have not been properly understood and have not received the support they needed. There is therefore a financial and moral onus on us to identify and provide therapy to reduce and reverse the development of mental health problems linked to speech and language difficulties.
The situation at the moment—it will be the same under the Bill—is that assessors often will not and do not recognise speech and language difficulties or cannot differentiate between them, and they often do not know how to support the client and communicate their needs.