HMYOI Cookham Wood was well led and working effectively and confidently with the boys it held, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution in Kent.
Cookham Wood holds boys aged 15 to 18. It is one of only a few such facilities in England and serves a substantial catchment area across much of southern England, with boys held for many reasons. They range from those recently remanded to those beginning long sentences. In recognition of the risks, challenges and vulnerabilities presented by the boys held, inspectors visit such institutions annually. At its last inspection in May 2015, inspectors were encouraged by progress that had been made. This more recent inspection found that progress had been maintained over the past year, though some safety concerns remained.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- safeguarding and child protection arrangements were well developed;
- the care offered to boys at risk of self-harm was good;
- most of the residential units were new, with much of the prison having been rebuilt in recent years, although some areas were grubby;
- the staff were knowledgeable, caring and working patiently with some boys whose behaviour was very difficult;
- access to time out of cell was better than at the last inspection, though over a quarter of boys were locked up during the working day;
- there was enough vocational training and education for all boys to have some access daily, the quality of the teaching was good and those who completed courses achieved qualifications;
- Ofsted scored the provision ‘good’ across the full range of their assessments, but more needed to be done to prevent routines being disrupted, which affected attendance and punctuality;
- work to support boys resettling back into the community remained reasonably good, with excellent support from the casework team; and
- several new offending behaviour interventions had been introduced.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the level of violence – some of it serious and including assaults on staff – was a serious concern and despite some significant and innovative work to tackle it, this work was not yet embedded;
- the huge catchment area contributed to the often late arrival of boys on their initial transfer to Cookham Wood, undermining the early risk assessment and settling in processes, though the attentiveness of staff and good reception and induction arrangements mitigated some of this risk;
- work to promote family ties remained weak, despite visits provision improving; and
- some sentence plans paid insufficient attention to the risks young people posed – of harming others and of reoffending.
Peter Clarke said:
“This is a very positive report concerning an institution that continues to improve. Difficulties, risks and weaknesses were being attended to in effective and often creative and innovative ways right across the prison, and it was clear to us that even more improvement was very achievable quite quickly. The prison was led with confidence; the management team seemed cohesive and attentive and an evident strength was the quite impressive culture that was developing among the staff as they grew in both experience and confidence.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has acknowledged that Cookham Wood continues to improve, which is to the credit of the Governor and his team.
“There remains more to do, particularly on safety, but work is under way to address this, including the introduction of a new behaviour management strategy and a new unit dedicated to supporting the most challenging offenders.
“The professionalism and commitment of the staff is a real strength and the strong foundations that are now in place will allow the prison to address the recommendations in this report and drive further improvements over the coming months.”
A copy of the full report, published on 17 January, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons