‘JustUS’. Getting the right support for victims of sexual violence (who have a learning disability) within the justice system

This 2 year pilot project is led by Positive Futures – a disabled people’s organisation working with and for people with a learning disability, those with an acquired brain injury and people with autism. Positive Futures is working in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Nexus NI.

The level of reported sexual offences is at its highest in Northern Ireland since recording started. However none of the statutory agencies involved in the justice system monitors the number of victims with a learning disability. The Rowan (Sexual Assault and Referral Centre) reported in November 2015 that 43% of people referred in the previous year had complex and additional needs. This included chronic illness, mental health problems, physical disabilities and learning disabilities.

Despite this there is limited knowledge of how best to identify people’s needs and how well current therapeutic programmes meet specific needs.

The project is:

  • Increasing the knowledge of people with a learning disability about their rights in relation to the justice system process and how to access appropriate support by developing of an accessible guide
  • Empowering people with a learning disability to influence current support arrangements provided by statutory and voluntary organisations by coproducing a counselling/therapeutic programme for victims of sexual violence
  • Increasing the skills and confidence of the PSNI Rape Crime Unit and the PPS staff to support people with a learning disability by the coproduction of training and implementation for those who provide services to victims of sexual violence

The project is recruiting up to 4 peer project advocates who will work throughout the 11 local authority areas in Northern Ireland and will lead and govern the project.