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