Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

Rerouting lives for offenders

Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who overcome barriers to make a real difference in their communities.  This month we feature Tanya Banfield, who won The 2019 Michael Ludlam Award for Advocacy, policy and the media, in the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.

Tanya Banfield, was diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult and has educated herself to doctorate level. She has also reimagined and redesigned rehabilitation strategies for autistic people.

Her work has been based on research and programmes and has resulted in full assimilation of the offenders with autism back into the society.

The Offenders reroute their lives, they don’t go back the beaten path of crime but instead get jobs, promotions and get married. Tanya’s Christmas card display is full of gratitude messages and high regard letters.

It all started with simple statistics from Tanya’s doctorate research. The findings found that one in five offenders at Dartmoor prison has traits of autism. This led to asking for revision of current offending prevention and offender rehabilitation strategies for autistic people.

With strong support from the governor, Tanya has been working across Dartmoor, and influencing the wider prisons community, to design support interventions that will reduce reoffending. This includes supporting people with learning disabilities and autism back into employment; over 5 years Tanya has trained over 300 offenders to manage themselves in the workplace and the community.

Tanya’s also directly supported over 40 offenders into employment, all but one of whom have kept their jobs.

The strategy is for the offenders to name and rate their positive and negative triggers. Over 2-3 years they learn to manage these triggers and reduce negative behaviours to take responsibility for their responses and actions, and to develop a life plan.

Tanya is humble, which is clear from her response to being named a Leader: “Being considered to be a Leader in my field is such an honour and I am really thankful to be considered. Being autistic myself has driven me to work with offenders on the spectrum to make a difference in how they see the world. Knowing that The Support Change Project is having this impact is amazing.”

Tanya has battled the adversities associated with autism all her life yet she has never given in and is an inspiration for all around her.

Since school, she has literally educated herself to doctorate level and now occupies positions including Head of Criminal Justice at Genius Within and Research Consultant to the National Autistic Society.

Her doctorate has been presented to the Ministry of Justice and when published it is expected to change how offenders with ASD are rehabilitated following time in prison. In 2018 Tanya also won an ERSA (Employment Related Services) Advisor of the Year award.

“Being autistic myself has driven me to work with offenders on the spectrum to make a difference in how they see the world.” – she adds in her own words.

Tanya cares about making a difference to those that have been left by the wayside, those who struggle to make sense of their lives. Offenders themselves hold Tanya in high regard and have written letters of appreciation about how she has gone the extra mile to improve their lives beyond the prison gate.


Edel Harris





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