HMYOI Feltham’s work with boys under 18 (the ‘A’ side) had made real improvements, despite some continuing serious safety concerns, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution in West London.
Staff and managers at Feltham have one of the most difficult jobs in the prison system. Feltham A held 180 boys, most aged 16 or 17, with very complex and challenging behaviour, some of whom were a danger to themselves and to other boys and staff. Often the boys held at Feltham have been written off by community agencies and the resources and staff Feltham has to meet the needs of those held there are insufficient for the task. Nevertheless, despite continuing serious concerns, this inspection found Feltham A making real progress with credible and positive plans for the future.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- progress was being made on the introduction of new restraint processes that emphasised de-escalation;
- managers responded to the challenges of violence in a positive and thoughtful way, and there was a clear strategy to provide greater incentives for good behaviour as well as sanctions for bad;
- some staff acted very courageously to protect boys from assaults and placed themselves at risk in doing so;
- there were well developed plans to open an enhanced support unit for boys with greater needs;
- the use of body-worn cameras by staff appeared to be having a positive effect;
- substance misuse services had improved and were excellent;
- support for boys at risk of self-harm was generally good;
- education staff had made good plans to meet the new requirement to offer 30 hours’ education a week,
- relationships between staff and boys were the best they have been for many years;
- the environment was generally good and work on equality and diversity issues was effective; and
- a team of committed caseworkers worked hard to provide good resettlement support and social workers ensured local authorities met their obligations to looked after boys.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the number of violent incidents remained very high, although it had reduced since the last inspection;
- a small number of boys were too frightened to leave their cells and spent about 23 hours a day locked away;
- in the seven months from January to July 2015, 49 officers had been injured and 40 assaults on staff had been referred to the police;
- the use of segregation in the bleak care and separation unit shared with young adults was high, though there were plans to open a separate new unit, designed to meet the needs of 15 to 18-year-olds;
- the levels of violence and poor behaviour were impacting on Feltham’s ability to get boys out of their cells and into purposeful activity; and
- more needed to be done to motivate boys who struggled in the classroom by improving the quality of teaching and a better mix with vocational training.
Nick Hardwick said:
“There is much to be learnt from the history of Feltham and some of the impressive staff and managers who work there. The review the government has recently started into youth justice should look, listen and learn. Feltham A has a long way to go at present and there are very serious concerns about the safety of the boys held there. However, it is making real progress and it has the right strategy to make more. It has impressive, committed leadership and staff are responding to that. Sustained, consistent effort will be needed to make the further improvements required, there may well be setbacks, and it will be important that managers and staff receive equivalent sustained and consistent support from both the Youth Justice Board and National Offender Management Service.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“Feltham faces some difficult challenges, but, as the Chief Inspector says, real progress is being made. This reflects some really impressive work by the Governor and his staff who deserve huge credit for their dedication, professionalism, commitment and resilience.
“I’m pleased that the report highlights good relationships between staff and children. Although there remains more to do, progress has continued since the inspection with assaults on staff down by 11% and use of force down by almost a quarter. An improved regime has also been introduced, and boys are now spending more time out of their cells.”
A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons