Talk About Talk

Raising Your Game comes to an end – Liz Wood, I CAN Communication Advisor

Raising Your Game is sadly coming to an end after five years of working with Mencap and Nacro to improve the lives of young people with a learning disability or communication difficulty who have offended or are at risk of offending. It was a partnership project and I CAN’s main role was to develop and co-deliver with young people, Talk about Talk, a workshop that raised awareness of communication difficulties for organisations either in the criminal justice system or those that offer employment or volunteering opportunities to young people who may have these additional needs.

Designing and co-delivering a course with young people means that the content really reflects their experiences and the impact of having a communication difficulty. Through interactive activities and short films, participants are able to understand the types of difficulties young people may have and how they can support them. Young people bring the training alive with real life experiences, humour and first hand advice as to what helps them. Although only two hours long, the training has really made a difference to work practices – people are slowing down their speech and giving young people more time to consider their response, information is being visually supported .One custody team have worked with their local speech and language therapy service to add visual support to their risk assessment to help young people understand more.

Over the course of the project, young people were trained and supported to co-deliver to 90 organisations across the six project areas. For all of the young people, it was the first time they had talked in front of an audience. One young person said, “my talking was good, it made me feel proud”. Part of Talk about Talk is tutoring sessions with their adult co-trainer which supports young people to develop their communication skills. Our evaluation in partnership with the University of Sheffield showed a significant change in the confidence and communication skills for those young people who had engaged with the programme.

What was surprising though was that despite up to 90% of young people in the criminal justice system having communication difficulties, only 25% of all organisational participants had received training in communication difficulties, what they are, how they affect young people and what that would mean in a youth justice or employment environment. It seems that there is lots of need to reach out to more professionals and offer training in this area.

What now? Well, Talk about Talk continues through funded and commissioned work. Young people who engaged in the programme take their confidence and skills forward. Glenn, a co presenter said ”Young people should have the opportunity to do something like this because there is a lot to gain from it, like confidence. It feels good to make a difference.” One of our young people co-presenters, Shane won the Shine a Light Communication Champion Award in 2014 for his work in increasing awareness of communication difficulties through Talk about Talk. He goes on to share his insight and knowledge through offering training and conferences – most recently to an auditorium of 300 professionals at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapist conference. What an amazing journey all our young people have been on. Currently Talk about Talk is being used in a National Offender Management Service (NOMs) project in Manchester, concentrating more on the prison population. Watch this space!

For more information on Raising Your Game visit [insert Mencap RYG website link]For more information on Talk about Talk visit

A blog from  Liz Wood, I CAN Communication Advisor