HMYOI WERRINGTON – Many positives but high levels of violence impacting lives

HMYOI Werrington in holding around 120 boys aged between 15 and 18, was found by inspectors to have become less safe over the year since its last inspection.

Notable features from this inspection
  • 56% of children identified as being from a black Asian or minority ethnic background.

  • Around 40% of frontline staff had less than 12 months experience.

  • 51% of children reported having previously been in Care.

  • 15 children were facing or serving long-term sentences.

  • 57% of children reported having been restrained.

Brief history

  • The establishment opened in 1895 as an industrial school and was subsequently purchased by the Prison Commissioners in 1955. Two years later it opened as a senior detention centre. Following the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 it converted to a youth custody centre in 1985 and in 1988 became a dedicated juvenile centre (15-18-year olds) with secure accommodation for those serving a detention and training order. Young people serving extended sentences under Section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act and remanded young people are also held at Werrington.

Inspectors assessed that the young offender institution, near Stoke-on-Trent, had deteriorated in three of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ ‘healthy prisons tests’. Care for children and rehabilitation work had both slipped from good, the highest assessment, to reasonably good. The test of purposeful activity for those held remained at reasonably good.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, while drawing attention to many positives at Werrington, was concerned that safety had now fallen to an assessment of not sufficiently good.

“The number of assaults on children remained high and violence against staff had doubled since our previous inspection. This impacted on all aspects of life at Werrington.” Inspectors found that some of the violence was serious. The use of force by staff had gone up.

The number of assaults on children remained high and violence against staff had doubled since our previous inspection. This impacted on all aspects of life at Werrington.

“We found that potentially motivational behaviour management policies were undermined by poor implementation and the lack of consistency in their application led to frustration among children and staff. Opportunities to reward good behaviour were missed and we saw many examples of low level poor behaviour not being challenged.” Inspectors, who visited in February 2019, noted that behaviour management had become more punitive compared to the previous inspection in January 2018.

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Mr Clarke added that it was “notable that there had been significant staff turnover in the previous year. During the inspection, we met many enthusiastic staff in their first year of service. However, leaders and managers needed to be more visible to support these staff, model effective practice and ensure behaviour management policies were properly implemented to help reduce the high levels of violence at Werrington.”

Outcomes in the area of care were more encouraging. The promotion of equality and diversity by the education provider at the YOI was particularly good and inspectors found no evidence of disproportionate treatment of children from minority groups. Health care was also very good.

“Engagement between staff and children was respectful but opportunities to build more meaningful and effective relationships were missed.” Inspectors, though, commended an area of good practice. The YOI’s safer custody team maintained a database of key dates, such as the anniversary of bereavements. All staff were contacted before these dates and asked to look out for these children. Time out of cell was reasonably good for most children but ‘keep apart’ issues – aimed at keeping apart boys who might come into conflict – meant there were often delays in moving them to education, health care or other appointments.

“This meant that resource was wasted as teachers, clinicians and other professionals waited for children to arrive,” Mr Clarke said. However, attendance at education had improved since the previous inspection and children appreciated the better range of vocational subjects on offer.

Inspectors found some good work in support of resettlement but a lack of coordination. Caseworkers, and sentence plans, were not driving the care of children at Werrington.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There are many positives in this report but weaknesses in behaviour management have led to deterioration of outcomes in some areas. Managers need to make a concerted effort to support frontline staff in the challenging task of implementing behaviour management schemes, with the principal aim of reducing the number of violent incidents at Werrington.”

Helga Swidenbank, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Executive Director of the Youth Custody Service, said:

“I am pleased that inspectors have recognised the large amount of positive work taking place at Werrington, including good healthcare and education, and the strong relationships staff have developed with the boys in their care. While violence is a challenge across the youth estate, the new Governor has already started to implement plans to reduce it, review behaviour management and improve the one-to-one support for every boy. As part of a new initiative, experienced staff are now providing more support to recently recruited frontline officers and this will help to drive improvements at Werrington.”

Read the Report

HMYOI Werrington – Proof that progress is obtained more by offering the carrot, than waving the stick

HMYOI Werrington, near Stoke-on-Trent, was found by inspectors to be a successful establishment with an “overriding culture” for the 100 boys aged from 15 to 18 of incentive rather than punishment.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “By any standards this was a good inspection (in January 2018) and showed what could be achieved in an area of custody that has drawn considerable adverse comment in recent times, not least from this Inspectorate.”

However, Mr Clarke sounded a note of caution. “Our major concerns were around the levels of violence, which had risen since the last inspection (in 2017) and were too high. There had been a significant increase from some 142 incidents in the six months prior to the last inspection to 206 incidents in the period leading up to this one.” Use of force by staff had also increased.

Inspectors noted, though, that Werrington had “good initiatives in place to tackle the violence, and early indications were that they were having a positive effect.” The ambition, Mr Clarke added, was to make the YOI safer, “but not at the expense of the regime” – the day-to-day running of the establishment.

In 2018, inspectors assessed respect in the YOI as “good”, the highest HMI Prisons assessment, with much of the progress due to good partnership working with other bodies, including in education, health and the voluntary sector.

The inspection, Mr Clarke said, “very quickly established that the overriding culture at Werrington was one of incentive rather than punishment. This was reality, not merely an aspiration, and the leadership and staff deserved much credit for having the determination to deliver it. This was in stark contrast to what we see all too often at other establishments, where a negative cycle of punishment and restriction is pursued as the preferred means of behaviour management.”

All boys had signed behaviour-related compacts in which access to private cash, computer games and time out of cell were good incentives and were appreciated by boys. Inspectors noted: “The scheme was more focused on incentives than we often see. The merit scheme had developed since the previous inspection and continued to offer boys an immediate reward for good behaviour which could be exchanged for confectionery at the merit shop. We observed officers who were quick to acknowledge good behaviour and this was reflected in the number of positive entries in boys’ files.”

Inspectors also commended good work in the area of resettlement for boys who were released. “There was imaginative use of release on temporary licence (ROTL), which was to be commended. There was also a proactive casework team that worked with partners to address offending behaviour and meet other resettlement needs.”

In conclusion, Mr Clarke said:

“It is pleasing to be able to publish a very positive report about a YOI. The Inspectorate always welcomes good practice being identified and promulgated, which is why we have gone to particular lengths in this report to do so. Nevertheless, it is clear that if the progress that has been made at Werrington is to be consolidated and maintained, there needs to be a continued and unwavering focus on reducing the violence that is the major threat to its continuing stability and success.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales described the report as “an oasis in a sea of what is usually despair.”

Mr Leech said: “Far too often we read dreadful reports, particularly with this volatile population, who are notoriously difficult to manage.

“The Werrington report however is an oasis is a sea of what is usually despair, and shows what can be done with imaginative management, incentives that work straight away and staff who try to see the best in people.

“There is still too much violence at Werrington, it needs strict control, but there are many YOI Governors who wish this report could have been written about their establishment – and their challenge to aim for that with the same incentivised approach.”

 A copy of the full report, published on 5 June 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HMYOI Werrington – Safety concerns but improvements in education and resettlement

Werrington

Safety had deteriorated at HMYOI Werrington, but it was positive in other areas, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution near Stoke-on-Trent.

HMYOI Werrington can hold up to 142 boys aged between 15 and 18. At the time of the inspection, Werrington was in the early stages of implementing the extended education day for young people and was doing so with a largely new staff and management group. There are now fewer children in custody and Werrington, like other similar establishments, holds some boys who are very difficult to manage, but with the problem of limited options regarding accommodation. These factors had contributed to a concerning deterioration in safety, and the perception of safety. In contrast, the establishment had done well to maintain positive findings in the areas of respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • an impressive reception area and a caring approach to the delivery of first night procedures creased a positive early experience for most boys;
  • efforts to improve living accommodation meant that this was now reasonable for most;
  • relationships with specialist staff such as youth workers, teachers and offender supervisors were strong and health care provision was very good;
  • the senior management team were beginning to find their feet and were clearly committed and enthusiastic;
  • the new extended education day timetable had increased time out of cell for most boys and it was better than inspectors see at other similar establishments;
  • leadership and management of learning, skills and work were good and levels of achievement were high;
  • resettlement work continued to be a strength and the establishment was working with partners in the community on accommodation for boys on release; and
  • visits and work with families of offenders demonstrated care and a real understanding of the anxieties faced by families when young people are imprisoned.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

high levels of violence and significant evidence of bullying explained why one in four boys reported feeling unsafe at the time of the inspection and half said that they had been victimised by other boys;

  • there were some good formal structures to support the most vulnerable, but incidences of self-harm and the numbers subject to case management for those at risk of suicide or self-harm (ACCT) were still too high;
  • the management of poor behaviour was a weakness, as low-level anti-social behaviour sometimes went unchallenged by staff, while the few incentives to behave really well were regularly withdrawn to accommodate the poorly behaved and the vulnerable; and
  • equality and diversity work was weak: little had been done to understand why the 50% of the population who were Muslim and/or from a black and minority ethnic background held such negative perceptions and consultation in general was ineffective.

Martin Lomas said:

“While we were greatly concerned about the deficiencies in the management of safety at Werrington, we found managers and staff to be receptive to our findings and were confident that they would make concerted efforts to make the establishment safer. Their success in maintaining positive outcomes in our other tests of a healthy prison, despite some significant challenges, was commendable.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“As the inspector noted, Werrington manages an increasingly complex group of boys. Since the inspection staff numbers have increased; a new system to challenge bullying and violence has been implemented, and a new culture of positive reward for good behaviour introduced.

“Tackling violence and providing a safe environment remains the Governor’s biggest challenge and top priority and work will continue to improve standards even further.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 2 March 2016 at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HMYOI Werrington – Improvements made but challenges remain say Inspectors

Werrington

HMYOI Werrington was working more positively with the young people it held, but still had areas to address, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution near Stoke-on-Trent.

HMYOI Werrington holds up to 160 boys under the age of 18. During the inspection about two-thirds were sentenced and one-third on remand. The significant risks and accountability of institutions holding children and young people means they are now inspected more frequently. This inspection followed an inspection in 2012 where inspectors found a reasonably caring institution, but one that had slipped back, where expectations were too low, poor behaviour not sufficiently challenged and where young people had little to do. This inspection found some improvements, but with significant shortcomings remaining.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the new purpose-built reception was impressive and young people reported very positively about their treatment on arrival;
  • behaviour management had improved;
  • use of force had fallen, was better managed and incidents were now more likely to be de-escalated by staff;
  • child protection and safeguarding arrangements were very effective and Werrington was well connected with the local authority in support of this work;
  • relationships between staff and young people were positive, but this was often not reflected in formal structures such as case notes or an effective mentoring scheme;
  • there were higher expectations of young people and outcomes for young people from minorities were reasonably good;
  • young people generally had a reasonable amount of time out of cell;
  • Werrington was developing its strategy to improve learning and skills and attendance and behaviour were better; and
  • work in support of resettlement remained good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although anti-bullying measures were more robust, levels of violence remained high;
  • the quality of respect was critically undermined by some very poor environmental conditions: some cells were filthy and a few were not in a fit state to house young people; and
  • some teaching required improvement and the range of vocational training was limited.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Werrington has taken steps to address some of the key issues we identified at our last visit. There is now a more positive approach to working with young people and some significant risk continues to be reasonably well managed. This will be more sustainable and useful if it is supported by effective systems and structures to embed the improvement. Improvements to the provision of purposeful activity need speeding up and the cleanliness of accommodation requires immediate attention.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises the progress that is being made at Werrington.

“The Governor and his staff are working positively to offer good resettlement and improve the behaviour of a complex and challenging population.

“They will continue to build on these improvements as they address the recommendations set out in the report.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 6 March 2014 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/werrington