Probation staff in Bradford have linked up with a charity in a pilot project to help offenders with learning difficulties.

The scheme is already getting the lives of such offenders back on track, to the benefit of the public.

West Yorkshire Probation revealed the scheme as a national inspection report called for changes to the way offenders with learning disabilities are handled.

Billy Devenport, operations manager at Bradford Probation said: “We have long recognised the need to provide better support for offenders with a learning disability to help them and to reduce any risk to the public.

“We have been working with Choice Advocacy as part of a pilot project for more than a year. The charity provides expert help so that offenders with learning disabilities can access the support they need including accommodation, benefits and legal advice. These are all issues that if ignored can increase a risk of reoffending.”

Mr Devenport said that Bradford Probation is also helping to pilot the use of Easy Read letters, leaflets and information for offenders with a learning disability or low literacy levels.

The joint inspection, by probation, police and prosecution inspectorates, and the Care Quality Commission, found there was no clear agreement across criminal justice and health organisations about what constitutes learning difficulties or disabilities, though it is believed up to 30 per cent of offenders could suffer from such conditions.

Inspectors were concerned to find little effective screening of detainees with a learning disability at the point of arrest and few medical or psychiatric professionals trained to work with people with learning disabilities in custody.

And offenders with learning disabilities were not receiving the support required to reduce their risk of harm to others or likelihood of reoffending.

Chief Inspector Michael Fuller, on behalf of the inspectorates, said: “A balance needs to be struck between the support needs of those with learning disabilities and the need to hold them to account, where appropriate, for their offending.”

The inspection report said only one of the police forces inspectors visited had a system to move offenders away from custody before arrest on the grounds of identified mental health problems or a learning disability.