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Criminal Justice

Traumatic brain injury costs £15 billion a year in the UK, says new research

Traumatic brain injury costs a total of £15 billion nationally every year and puts young people at higher risk of poor mental health and offending, according to research published today by Centre for Mental Health.

Traumatic Brain Injury and offending: an economic analysis finds that head injuries (in which the brain is damaged by impact, such as from a fall, a road accident or violence) double a person’s risk of later mental illness. These injuries dramatically increase the risk of earlier death, and can play a significant role in increasing the risk of future offending – by up to 50% according to some studies.

Also launched at the event was an evaluation of the Disabilities Trust’s brain injury linkworker service at a young offender institution as part of the Transition to Adulthood (T2A) programme.

Traumatic brain injuries cause about 160,000 people to be admitted to hospital in the UK each year, and about 1.3 million people are living with disabilities resulting from these injuries. Injuries at a young age can result in serious and long-term impairments in brain development.

An estimated 60% of adult offenders in the UK have had a traumatic brain injury, six times higher than the rate among the wider population.

Traumatic Brain Injury and offending finds that the long-term cost of head injury in a young offender is some £440,000.

The evaluation of the Brain Injury Linkworker Service identifies ways in which young people in custody can be helped to rehabilitate more effectively. The linkworker scheme was found to help young people in custody who have sustained head injuries, as well as families and staff members.  The evaluation found that young people valued having someone to talk to, help understanding their condition and practical support from how to avoid fights to getting work.

Prof Huw Williams of the University of Exeter, one of the authors of the linkworker evaluation said: “Across the world children and young people with traumatic brain injuries are failed by their societies and end up in prisons – at very high cost. But imprisoning young people with traumatic brain injuries seems to make matters worse, putting them at a higher risk of suicide and violence. There are many practical, low cost, ways to manage the effects of a head injury. It’s vital that children and young people affected are helped to mature, and take their place in society. Any government that seeks a humane approach towards vulnerable people, and fiscally sound policies, should take notice, and act in all our best interests”.