The Disabilities Trust: Raising Brain Injury awareness in Parliament

ON 25 June, staff from The Disabilities Trust visited Parliament to screen MPs for brain injury, raising awareness of brain injury, as well as giving Members of Parliament insight into the screening process used within prison populations as part of The Disabilities Trust’s pilot project. 

Chris Bryant MP, a frequent advocate of brain injury awareness and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury, hosted the event in which MPs were screened using the Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI), a tool provided by national charity The Disabilities Trust.

The Disabilities Trust: Raising Brain Injury awareness in Parliament
Marie Rimmer MP

It was a successful event with over ten MPs attending for screening, or to understand more about what we do. In attendance from The Disabilities Trust were Dr Ivan Pitman and Dr Rachael McNulty who have led on our work in prisons, Joss Gaynor, Head of Foundation, and Natasha Bloor, who worked in HMP Drake Hall as a Brain Injury Linkworker during our pilot project.

This was a fantastic opportunity for MPs to talk to experts in the field and learn more about acquired brain injury and how the screening process works. Our screening tool, the Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI) was developed in response to our research and uses eleven questions to help identify people with a brain injury, as well as giving an indication of the severity of the injury.

The Disabilities Trust: Raising Brain Injury awareness in Parliament
Victoria Prentis MP

The screening day came about after The Disabilities Trust conducted research into the male and female prison populations and found nearly half of male prisoners (HM Prison Leeds, 2014) and nearly two-thirds of female prisoners (Making the Link, 2019) screened positive for a history of brain injury. A brain injury can make it much harder for individuals to engage in rehabilitation, and could even contribute to re-offending. Despite this, there is no regular testing for brain injury conducted in adult prisons in the UK.

The Disabilities Trust: Raising Brain Injury awareness in Parliament
Chris Bryant MP

By showing MPs how the BISI works we were able to demonstrate just how straightforward it is to screen for a brain injury, whilst highlighting the impact of brain injury in prisons and how screening could help to reduce reoffending. The Trust believes brain injury should be included in health assessments on entry to prison and staff should be trained in brain injury awareness.

Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the APPG on Acquired Brain Injury, said:

“All the evidence suggests that simple screening of all prisoners for brain injuries followed by the appropriate support could help rehabilitate offenders, cut reoffending and improve prisons. It’s time we followed the science.”

Jocelyn Gaynor, Head of Foundation at The Disabilities Trust said:

“Our research shows that recognising brain injury could prove vital to reducing rates of reoffending. We want to demonstrate just how easy it is to integrate the BISI into entry health assessments to make this change. The MP Screening Day was a great success and enabled us to spend some focused time with MPs to explain our work and our policy calls.”