URGENT NOTIFICATION: HMYOI Feltham A: Children’s Unit

NEW APPROACH NEEDED AFTER ‘EXTRAORDINARY COLLAPSE IN SAFETY AND CARE’
SAYS CHIEF INSPECTOR

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has called on the Secretary of State for Justice to intervene urgently in Feltham A Young Offender Institution (YOI) after an inspection last week disclosed an “extraordinary” decline in safety, care and activity for the children held there.

Inspectors found very high levels of violence, between boys and against staff, high use of staff force, poor care, long periods of lock-up in cells and escalating self-harm.

Peter Clarke invoked the rarely-used Urgent Notification (UN) process because of disturbing inspection findings at the unit holding boys aged under 18 in West London. The Secretary of State must respond within 28 days, in public, with action to improve conditions.

Feltham A had previously been subject to a full inspection in January 2019. The report on that inspection, published in early June 2019, warned of deterioration in safety and care after a period of drift. Mr Clarke also took the unusual step, based on intelligence from a number of sources about Feltham A, of announcing that the Inspectorate would return to the children’s unit in early July to inspect both Feltham A and Feltham B, the linked prison for 18–21-year-olds.

The Urgent Notification relates only to Feltham A which, Mr Clarke said, “has for many years been recognised as a challenging and complicated establishment.”

Mr Clarke added: “We found that in the six months since the last inspection there had been what can only be described as a collapse in performance and outcomes for the children being held in Feltham A… The speed of this decline has been extraordinary.”

In his UN letter to David Gauke, sent on 22 July, Mr Clarke set out his key findings:

 40% of children said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay at Feltham A

  • the number of violent incidents had risen by 45% since January 2019, though the number of children held had fallen
  • the number of assaults against staff, some of which were very serious, had risen by around 150% since January
  • levels of self-harm had tripled since the previous inspection and were 14 times higher than in January 2017
  • use of force by staff had risen to very high levels: 74% of children reported they had been physically restrained at Feltham A and there had been over 700 incidents in the last six months
  • fewer than one in five children felt cared for by staff, less than half felt most staff treated them with respect, and only 45% reported there was a member of staff they could turn to for help
  • frontline staff were working in an extremely challenging environment and were frequently victims of antisocial behaviour and violence
  • a third of children said they were out of their cells for fewer than two hours during the week; at the weekend this figure rose to nearly three- quarters
  • resources were being wasted as health care staff, education facilities and resettlement intervention services stood idle waiting for children to arrive
  • many children were being released from Feltham A without stable accommodation, without education, training or employment being in place, and without support from family or friends.

Mr Clarke wrote to Mr Gauke: “I do not for one moment underestimate the challenges facing the leaders and staff at HMYOI Feltham A. During recent months they have often faced violence, some of it very serious. The atmosphere feels tense, and I could sense that many staff were anxious. Some were clearly frustrated about the situation in which they found themselves. They wanted to do their best for the children in their care.

“The overriding issue behind the extraordinary decline in performance over the past 18 months is the approach to dealing with violence and managing the behaviour of children. Of course, there is a need to keep children safe from each other, and for staff themselves to be safe in their workplace. However, the response at Feltham A, for many years, has been to focus too heavily on containing the problems rather than addressing them. As a result, ‘keep apart’ policies – developed so that children from rival gangs, or who for other reasons are likely to be violent to each other, are kept separate – have come to dominate.

“This has led to a collapse of any reasonable regime, has prevented many children from getting to education or training, delayed their access to health care, isolated them from meaningful human interaction and frustrated them to the point where violence and self-harm have become the means to express themselves or gain attention.

“There clearly needs to be a new approach which looks fundamentally to change behaviour and goes beyond merely trying to contain violence through ever more restrictive security and separation.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1,600-page annual guide to prisons in England and Wales – the new 21st annual edition of which is published on 1st August 2019 – said the report was “shocking”.

Mr Leech said: “This is a shocking report where an increasing number of children in this establishment, unable to cope, have flipped into self-destruct.

“Levels of self-harm have tripled since the previous inspection – and they are now 14 times higher than they were in January 2017.

“Today we will have a new Justice Secretary after the resignation of David Gauke following Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister – to them I say: ‘welcome to the real world of prisons’ – and please deal with this urgently as the Notification requires.”

Read the Urgent Notification Letter

Read the Urgent Notification Letter & Full Notice

HMYOI WETHERBY & KEPPEL – Reasonably good or better in all inspection assessments

HMYOI Wetherby – a young offender institution (YOI) in Yorkshire, including the specialist Keppel unit for the most challenging children – continued to be a well-led establishment, inspectors found.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in 2018 inspectors had “found an institution that was progressing well, and was achieving reasonably good or better outcomes in nearly all the healthy prison tests we assessed.”

The inspection in March 2019 was equally good. Indeed, Mr Clarke said, “safety had improved on the Wetherby side of the institution to the extent that all eight of our assessments (four each for Wetherby and Keppel) were now at least reasonably good or better.

“Keppel in particular should be commended for the good outcomes it was achieving for some very vulnerable and challenging children.”

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Levels of self-harm were comparable with other YOIs but higher on Keppel and reflected the vulnerabilities of the children on the unit. The care children in self-harm crisis received was generally well integrated and very good, though there was too-frequent use of strip clothing with seemingly insufficient justification.

The amount of violence in Wetherby had fallen slightly and was now lower than comparable prisons, with some good robust initiatives to hopefully reduce it further.

“There were also several schemes in place to incentivise young people but they were undermined by too great an emphasis on punishment over reward.” Use of force by staff remained high, Mr Clarke added, “and although it was now better supervised, in our view there needed to be greater evidence of de-escalation and a further reduction in last-resort, pain-inducing techniques.”

Relationships between staff and young people remained a real strength of the institution. Staff expressed pride in their work and knew the children well. Children also spoke positively about the influence of the Governor. Inspectors identified as good practice the issuing of a free MP3 player with a recording of the induction so new arrivals could learn about the establishment in their own time.

Time out of cell had improved since 2018 and PE provision was very good. The delivery of learning and skills was well led, and priority had been given to maintaining high levels of attendance. Across both sites there was enough activity for all. Ofsted inspectors judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills to be ‘good’.

Both Wetherby and Keppel had up-to-date strategies to reduce reoffending and resettlement needs were supported by some good casework. Public protection measures were effective.

Mr Clarke said:

“Overall Wetherby continues to be a well-led institution, run by a confident staff group delivering useful outcomes for children. We observed considerable initiative and energy and a very evident commitment to ongoing improvement.   We have made a small number of recommendations which we hope will assist this process.”

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

“It is extremely encouraging that Wetherby and Keppel have improved on safety and significantly reduced violence given they are managing a very vulnerable and challenging group of young people. I’d like to reiterate the comments made by the Chief Inspector and thank the governor and his team for their commendable work which has had such a positive influence on these children’s lives.”

Read the Report

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 Feltham Children’s Unit: Deterioration in Safety and Care after Period of Drift

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Safety and care in the children’s unit at HMYOI Feltham A in west London were found in 2019 to have deteriorated over the year since the previous inspection.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the young offender institution appeared to have suffered some “drift” during a period without a governor.

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Mr Clarke said that in 2018 inspectors “reported on a much-improved institution where good leadership had resulted in outcomes across three of our healthy prison tests – safety, care and resettlement – being reasonably good.

“More needed to be done to improve purposeful activity and we cautioned that any loss of leadership focus could expose the fragilities, which at the time we felt characterised some of the improvements we had observed. In light of the clear warning in our last report, it was disappointing to be told that… there had been an interregnum when Feltham had been left without a governor for a period of five months.

“A new governor was now in post and beginning to stabilise the establishment, but it was evident to us that there had been a degree of drift resulting in deteriorating outcomes, notably in safety and care.”

Feltham A was now not safe enough. There was a significant increase in the number of children self-harming. “The care experienced by those in need was also reasonably good, although it would have been better if such children were not locked up, often alone, for extended periods.”

In the inspection survey, some 13% of children said they currently felt unsafe and levels of violence had increased significantly since 2018. In the six months to the 2019 inspection there were 230 incidents of violence, a return to the high levels reported in 2017. Initiatives to reduce violence existed, but needed to be applied with more rigour and coordination, Mr Clarke said. Inspectors noted that not enough had been done to identify the reasons behind the increase in violence.

“Similarly, a comprehensive behaviour management strategy had been formulated, but it was applied inconsistently.” Operational staff “were neither setting ambitious standards nor sufficiently challenging antisocial behaviour.”

The application of ‘keep-apart protocols’, designed to separate individuals or gangs who were perceived as a threat to one another, had become all-consuming, inspectors found. “We understood the over-riding need to keep children safe from one another, but such arrangements were having an impact on all aspects of the regime, limiting opportunities for children to make any progress. The prison needed to rethink this approach and develop new strategies for conflict resolution.”

Nearly two-thirds of children said they had been physically restrained and the use of force by staff had increased. Mr Clarke added: “Oversight and scrutiny were, however, lacking and we found evidence of poor practice, including the use of pain-inducing techniques, that had not been accounted for.”

Too few children felt respected by staff and many suggested they felt victimised. Inspectors saw patient and caring encounters, but found that many staff were too preoccupied with keeping children apart to be able to develop trusting relationships. Nearly half of children said they had no one to turn to for help. “The residential environment had deteriorated and we could best describe many cells as spartan,” Mr Clarke added. Inspectors found 26% of children locked in their cells during the working day, a situation that was worse than last year and overall very poor. Only around a third of children could shower every day.

However, there was evidence of real improvements to the education and training curriculum and to the management of teachers. Public protection arrangements were managed well, but offending behaviour interventions had been limited by staff shortages and by the imposition of the ‘keep-apart’ requirements.

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “Feltham is a high profile and challenging institution, and the decline in standards since the last inspection was disappointing. However, we were impressed by the new governor’s commitment to the institution and her grasp of the issues that need attention.”

The Chief Inspector added: “Because of our findings in the January 2019 inspection of Feltham A – and further concerns based on information from a number of sources – we have informed HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) that we will return to Feltham in the week commencing 8 July 2019 to carry out a survey, which will be followed by a full inspection starting on 15 July. This full, announced inspection will cover the whole establishment – both the Feltham A children’s unit and Feltham B, holding 18-21-year-olds. This is an unusual step, but I have come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances it is a necessary and appropriate course of action.”

Dr Jo Farrar, Chief Executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, said: “HMYOI Feltham A is a complex and challenging place, and we are pleased that inspectors have recognised the work of the new governor and her commitment to driving forward improvements at the prison. We are taking urgent action to address the concerns raised – this includes opening a specialist unit to provide interventions and support for the most challenging young people, and providing each offender with a dedicated officer to better help their rehabilitation. We have also recruited an extra 90 prison officers across Feltham since the last inspection and are training more than 50 Youth Justice Specialist Officers. We know that there is a lot more to do and that significant change is needed which is why the governor and her staff will continue to work hard ahead of the return of the inspectors in July.”

Read the Report 

Raise the age of criminal responsibility says Watchdog

A watchdog has called for the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales to be raised.

Individuals suspected of offences can be arrested and charged from the age of 10 under the existing rules.

This is lower than in many European countries and “inconsistent with accepted international standards”, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

It says criminalising children at the age of 10 or 11 can have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing and development, and risks making them more likely to reoffend as adults.

The EHRC is calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be “significantly” raised.

David Isaac, chairman of the commission, said: “Increasing the age of criminal responsibility is crucial to stop very young children being exposed to the harmful effects of detention and to protect their future.”

Having the age of criminal responsibility set at 10 allows for early intervention in a child’s life with the aim of preventing subsequent offending, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

An MoJ spokeswoman said: “Younger children who offend are often diverted from the justice system or dealt with out of court and, in the last decade, there has been an 86% reduction in the number of under 18-year-olds entering the youth justice system.”

The EHRC flagged up the issue in a wide-ranging submission to a United Nations review.

It also recommended action to address overcrowding in prisons and the introduction of a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.

The Government said it is “committed to ensuring people in custody are treated fairly and appropriately”.

Children in Custody – Welcome signs of improvement but many still feel unsafe

Children in Custody 2017–18: An analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experiences in secure training centres and young offender institutions

Signs of improvement in youth custody establishments have yet to translate into greater feelings of safety for those detained, according to new analysis of the perceptions of children in custody.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the study of children held in 2017-18 in England and Wales, warned against complacency because of improvements seen in some recent inspections of secure training centres (STCs) and young offender institutions (YOIs).

Despite indications of improved behaviour, significant numbers of children in both types of establishment still said they had felt unsafe at some time. The figures were 34% for STCs and 40% in YOIs.

In February 2017, Mr Clarke warned the Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice that HM Inspectorate of Prisons could not then classify any STC or YOI as safe enough to hold children, because of high levels of violence.

This year (2017-18), Mr Clarke said, “there have been some encouraging signs of improvement in safety at some establishments, but history tells us that all too often early signs of improvement have not been sustained.

“A key factor in securing a safe environment for children in custody is finding positive ways to encourage good behaviour. During the year we published a thematic report on this subject, the key finding of which was that all effective behaviour management was underpinned by positive relationships between staff and children. Building those positive relationships is a key challenge for both STCs and YOIs, given the shortages of staff, their high turnover rates and, in too many establishments, very poor time out of cell for the children.”

Mr Clarke added: “It is notable that there has been no statistically significant shift in the perceptions of children about their treatment and conditions – either in STCs or YOIs. Too many children… (34% in STCs and 40% in YOIs) report having felt unsafe since coming into custody.”

The independent HMIP report was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). Mr Clarke said the YJB and the recently created Youth Custody Service (YCS) within the prison service should fully understand a notable finding in the perceptions analysis. This is that significantly more (87%) children in STCs reported being treated respectfully by staff than the 64% of boys who did so in YOIs.

A total of 686 children, from a population in custody of just under 840, answered questions in a survey.

Key findings included:

  • 42% of children in STCs identified as being from a black or other minority ethnic background;
  • Over half of children (56%) in STCs reported that they had been physically restrained in the centre;
  • Nearly a third of children in STCs (30%) reported being victimised by other children by being shouted at through windows;
  • Over half (51%) of boys in YOIs identified as being from a black or minority ethnic background, the highest rate recorded in surveys of YOIs:
  • Half of children (50%) in YOIs reported that they had been physically restrained.

Mr Clarke said:

“I trust that the details of this report will prove useful to those whose responsibility it is to provide safe, respectful and purposeful custody for children. As we all know, the perceptions of children in custody, will, for them, be the reality of what is happening. That is why we should not allow the recent improvement in inspection findings to give rise to complacency.”

Read The Report

How Low Staffing Impacts On Child Safety In Prisons

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Staffing problems meant far too many boys were locked up in cells nearly all day in young offender institutions, according to an annual report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons on the experiences of detained children aged 12 to 18.

Though the numbers who had felt unsafe in YOIs had fallen from a record high level in 2015–16, surveys in 2016–17 still found almost 40% had felt unsafe. Children in secure training centres (STCs), home to a larger number of under-16s, generally felt safer than those in YOIs but a fifth said they had no-one to turn to if they had a problem.

And in 2016–17, across both types of custody, there were disproportionate numbers of black and minority ethnic children, and children from Gypsy, Romany or Traveller communities, compared to their representation in the general population. Children with disabilities and mental and emotional health problems, and with backgrounds in local authority care, were also held in high numbers.

The report – Children in Custody 2016–17 – summarised findings of surveys distributed in HMIP inspections in the year. A total of 720 children completed the surveys. In his foreword, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, recalled that in February 2017 he had warned ministers that none of the establishments holding children were judged in inspections to be safe and the speed of the decline in safety was “extraordinary”.

In 2016–17, Mr Clarke added, “the impact of staffing constraints appears to have been more keenly felt by children this year. In YOIs…we have found far too many boys being locked in their cells for more than of 22 hours each day, with staff struggling to manage the complexities of regimes where some boys can only be allowed out of their cells while others are locked up. Too often in STCs, we found that staff were being redeployed from their assigned unit to cover gaps elsewhere in the centre. More than a fifth of children in STCs said they had no one to turn to if they had a problem, meaning that many vulnerable children with complex needs were trying to manage their problems without support.”

Overall, the numbers of children in custody has fallen by 70% since 2006–07 and the number of girls continues to fall – though Mr Clarke said it was important their specific needs were not overlooked.

Among key findings:

  • Nearly half (49%) of children in STCs were from a black or other minority ethnic background. 12% said they were Muslim and 10% were from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background.
  • More than one in five children (22%) reported feeling unsafe at some point since arriving at the STC.

In YOIs:

  •  Nearly half (48%) of boys identified themselves as being from a black or minority ethnic background. Around one-fifth (22%) were Muslim and the proportion of boys who   had experienced local authority care was 42%. Almost one-fifth (19%) of boys reported having a disability.
  • 39% of boys said they had felt unsafe, a fall on last year’s figure of 46%.
  • There was a significant fall in the proportion of boys who said they could have a shower every day (71% compared with 88% in 2015–16) and the proportion who could use the phone every day had fallen significantly from 80% to 68%.

Mr Clarke said:

“Last year, I invited those with the responsibility to develop and improve policy to take our findings seriously. I trust that the realignment of responsibilities between the Youth Justice Board, the Ministry of Justice commissioners of services and the new Youth Custody Service within HM Prison and Probation Service will lead to improvement, and that the process of restructuring and reform will not detract from the urgent need for an effective operational response to the issues raised in this report. The need for this to be the case has actually increased, particularly when it comes to improving both the perceptions and the reality of safety. Until this is addressed, the broader objectives of delivering education, training and creating a rehabilitative environment will not be achieved.”

A copy of the report, published on Wednesday 23 November, can be found at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections

published today: Children in Custody 2015-16: an analysis of 12 to 18-year-olds’ perceptions

 Juv CentreNearly half of boys in young offender institutions have felt unsafe in custody at some point, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published a thematic report on the results of surveys of children in custody.

The report, Children in Custody 2015-16: an analysis of 12 to 18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experience in secure training centres and young offender institutions, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB), sets out how children describe their own experience of imprisonment. The number of children in custody fell by 53% between 2010-11 and 2015-16, made up largely by falls in the number of children held in young offender institutions (YOIs), down 59%. Over the longer term, the secure children’s estate population has fallen by 66% since 2005-06. As of April 2016, 906 children aged under 18 were held in custody across England and Wales.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has published an annual summary of survey responses in YOIs since 2001-02 and the demographics and circumstances of the boys held have changed over that period. The proportion who said they were from a black or minority ethnic background is at the highest rate recorded since 2001-02, at 47%. Those with experience of the local authority care system (37%), Muslim boys (22%), boys reporting a disability (19%) and those identifying as being from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background (7%) continued to be disproportionately over-represented across the YOI estate when compared with the population as a whole. When asked if they had ever felt unsafe at their establishment, 46% of boys said they had, the highest ever figure recorded through our surveys.

The report also found that in YOIs:

  • the proportion of boys with a job in their establishment had fallen significantly in the past 12 months (16% compared with 28% in 2014-15); and
  • the proportion of boys engaged in a job (16%), vocational training (11%) and offending behaviour programmes (16%) across the YOI estate was lower than in 2015-16 than at any point since 2010-11.

In April 2012, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission began joint inspections of Secure Training Centres (STCs). This report includes the fourth annual summary of children’s experience of STCs. The demographics of STCs and YOIs have some significant differences. YOIs hold only boys aged between 15 and 18. All girls aged under 18 are now held in either STCs or local authority-run Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs). STCs held a greater proportion of children under 16 than YOIs, at around a third (32%).

The report also found that in STCs:

  • the proportion who identified as being from a black or minority ethnic background was 41%;
  • the proportion who identified as Muslim was 15%;
  • the proportion who said they were from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background was 12%;
  • nearly a third of children (31%) report being victimised by being shouted at through windows; and
  • nearly a quarter of children (23%) reported feeling unsafe at some point since their arrival at the STC.

Peter Clarke said:

“Over the past decade the number of children in custody has fallen by some 66%, but the perceptions of those that remain leave us with some worrying and difficult issues to consider. During the inspections of young offender institutions in the past year, we found that outcomes in our test of safety were not sufficiently good in all but one YOI. Our surveys disclose that 46% of boys had at some point felt unsafe at their establishment, the highest figure we have recorded. These poor outcomes in safety are directly related to correspondingly poor outcomes in education.

“There are some particularly troubling findings in the areas of disproportionate over-representation (in terms of the characteristics of the children now being held in custody), safety, victimisation, respect and training. I hope these findings are taken seriously by those charged with developing and improving policy.”

Colin Allars, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, said:

“Parts of this report are uncomfortable to read – trends around safety are concerning.  We will use these findings to support our work with providers of custodial services to address the issues children and young people are telling us about.

“The YJB has a role in ensuring young people are looked after whilst in custody, and to do that effectively we must listen to their views. We commission this independent survey because its findings are important in ensuring that the voices of children and young people in custody are heard and because it helps us to monitor the services provided to them.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 15 November 2016 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/thematic-research.htm

Children in Custody: Distance From Home – A Thematic Review.

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 16.23.59Placing children in custody miles away from their home affected how many family visits they received, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. It didn’t, however, have a significant impact on other experiences of custody and could help some boys keep away from gang influence, he added.

Today he published a report, The impact of distance from home on children in custody.

The independent review was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). It pulls together views and data on the impact of distance from home on children in custody. The aims of the thematic were to:

 explore the impact of distance from home on aspects of daily life in custody for children, and

 explore the impact of distance from home on resettlement planning and outcomes on release.

The report draws on interviews with around 50 children and staff at two young offender institutions (YOIs) and one secure training centre (STC), and data provided by those establishments. It also uses data from surveys conducted at four YOIs holding 15–18-yearolds and two STCs, and recall data provided by the YJB.

Key findings.

 Children who were held further from home had fewer visits than those who were close to home. For each child included in our survey sample, analysis of data on visits revealed that those held further from home had significantly fewer visits from family members and friends, with cost and travel time cited as reasons for children not receiving visits. The impact of this was raised as a negative influence by children and their caseworkers during interviews. Most caseworkers and managers, when asked about the vulnerabilities of the children in their care, linked them to problems with family contact. Little was being done, bar a pilot of using Skype at one YOI, to mitigate this impact on the boys and girls concerned (see paragraphs 4.14–4.24).

 Analysis of data for 595 children showed that children who were further away from home received significantly fewer visits from professionals. This mirrored what children told Inspectors in interviews (see paragraphs 4.43–4.44).

 Planning for release and resettlement followed the same process irrespective of distance from home. Children saw advantages in being close to home when it came to their release and caseworkers described it as sometimes harder to put a suitable release package in place for those who were further away from home. Elements such as family mediation work and ‘through the gate work’ (continuation into the community of work begun in custody) were seen as more difficult when greater distances were involved. Family involvement and support post release was seen as a key element whenever there was a chance of this being available (see paragraphs 4.48–4.51).

 In the sample of cases looked at, distance from home had little impact on attendance by external partners at sentence planning or remand management reviews. There was good attendance by external youth offending team (YOT) workers regardless of distance and families attended half of the reviews for children who were closer to home, and slightly fewer for those who were far from home (see paragraphs 4.34–4.36).

 There was no association between distance from home and recall to detention following release. Analysis of release and recall data for a census of over 1,300 children subject to a detention and training order (DTO) who were released in England and Wales during 2013–14, showed no identifiable link between distance from home while in custody and likelihood of recall to custody post release (see paragraph 4.58).

 Survey data and interviews with children showed distance from home was not a predictor of whether a child had felt unsafe in their YOI/STC. It was of concern though that nearly half of children, regardless of their distance from home, had at some point felt unsafe while in their current YOI/STC (see paragraph 4.5). Similarly, distance from home was not a predictor of whether a child reported that they had experienced victimisation from staff or other children, considered that they were treated with respect by staff, or had been restrained (see paragraphs 4.6–4.12).

 Distance from home did not have a significant impact on the experiences of children in many areas of custodial life. The main exceptions to this were: visits from family, involvement of family in preparation for release and the involvement of external professionals (other than for sentence or remand planning reviews).

 Arriving late at the YOI/STC, which can make it more difficult for a child to settle on their first night in custody, was not uncommon and could be exacerbated by the distances some children had to travel to get to their YOI/STC. In our Transfers and Escorts5 thematic review, we reported on the scope to make greater use of ‘virtual courts’ that could reduce the need for children to make lengthy journeys for brief court appearances and transfers. We repeat that observation in this review.

 Boys in YOIs who were close to home reported more gang problems when they first arrived at their YOI than those who were far from home. Caseworkers saw benefits for some children in being away from gang influences, or an area where their offence had attracted local attention. One child pointed to the advantage of being away from previous influences and having the chance to mature, and other children interviewed saw advantages in being further from home. It was considered easier as you were not reminded of family all the time, and knowing what was ‘on the other side of the fence’ could be a source of frustration for some. That young people who reported gang problems were placed closer to home than those who did not report such problems may be due to the geographical locations of YOIs and those young people involved in gangs, rather than the distances involved (see paragraphs 4.12 and 4.29).

The Report recommends

More imaginative solutions and flexibility should be used to mitigate the current lack of visits for children whose family find it hard to visit, whether due to distance or other factors.

 Children should be provided with additional phone calls to a parent/carer in place of unused visit entitlements.

 There should be greater use of new technologies to enable children in custody to have the levels of contact they need with external professionals who will be working with them post release, and to enable relevant ‘through the gate’ work to commence while in custody.

 Age appropriate information should be available in all courts so children who are committed to custody can know before they leave the court where in England or Wales they are going, where this is in relation to their home and what the YOI/STC offers.

 Children should routinely be given the opportunity to discuss how they feel about their distance from home and how any negative impacts they are experiencing can be mitigated.

 Available data should be used on a regular basis to determine any negative impacts on children who are placed far from home, particularly in relation to recall and reoffending, and to identify any emerging patterns or trends.

 There should be increased use of video-enabled court hearings, when appropriate, while ensuring there are no adverse consequences for the child or criminal justice procedures. Safeguards should ensure that the child is able to appropriately consult with their solicitor prior to their hearing. (Repeated recommendation from escorts thematic.)

After publication of the Report Peter Clarke said:

“It was reassuring to find that being placed in custody far from home was not a disadvantage to children in many respects. The negative impact on family ties and the implications this has for successful resettlement and turning children away from crime cannot, though, be ignored.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales welcomed the report and called for ‘thinking outside the box’.

Mr Leech said: “This report is welcome in that it revisits a very important issue, but did we really need a Thematic Review to tell us long distance and fewer visits are inextricably inter-linked?

“It has long been established that family contact is crucial to rehabilitation, the Inspectorate’s own 2014 report on resettlement of adults makes this point, and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty include that ‘detention facilities for juveniles should be decentralised and of such size as to facilitate access and contact between the juveniles and their families.’

“The point that increased distance from home can reduce gang influence may well be a welcome by-product, but keeping children far from home ought to be the exception not the rule; the costs in terms of rehabilitation far outweigh any benefits.

“A much reduced YOI Estate inevitably means distance from home will increase, fewer visits will take place, and therefore it is surely time to start thinking outside the box and use modern technology, such as Skype, to facilitate increased family and professional face-to-face visits where distance from home reduces or often prevents physical visits from taking place at all – and not just for children, although they should perhaps be the first to benefit, but across the prison estate nationally.”

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

Replace child prisons with small units to cut reoffending says new report

childinprisonReplacing large children’s prisons with smaller units could boost Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s attempts to reduce reoffending rates, a report suggests.

Detainees in young offenders’ institutions are more likely to suffer violence and longer periods in isolation, it was claimed.

Youngsters can also be locked up in secure training centres and secure children’s homes.

The Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, who commissioned the research, said: “Keeping children in units where they are likely to suffer violence, intimidation and longer periods of isolation has long-term costs. Children in those environments are more likely to reoffend when they are released.

“When children are kept in isolation their education is disrupted and it is far harder to reintegrate them into society once they have served their sentences.

“The Justice Secretary needs to take note of this report and consider replacing large children’s prisons with small secure units.

“These may be more expensive to run in the short term because they require a higher adult to child ratio but would be cost effective if they help to keep young people out of trouble in the future.”

The study found that on average, a third of children in the youth justice secure estate in England are subject to isolation at some point. The approach is often used as a method for maintaining order and safety.

Young people held in secure children’s homes and training centres are usually placed in isolation for shorter periods than those locked up in larger young offender institutes, according to the report.

It called for an end to solitary confinement, saying this can see children kept in isolation for 22 hours or more.

Ms Longfield said: “Even where there are children who may never be released from prison, long periods of segregation is likely to have detrimental effect on their behaviour and outcomes.

“The number of children held in secure units has fallen dramatically in recent years to around 1,000 children from about 3,000 seven years ago so the effective reintegration of those who are released is within our grasp.

“We need to ensure that the right resources are available to eradicate re-offending on release.”

Mr Gove has set out proposals that would amount to a radical overhaul of prisons since being appointed to the role following the election.

He has floated the idea of linking an offender’s release date to their academic performance while behind bars as he lamented the UK’s failure to reduce re-offending rates as “horrifying”.

Mr Gove has also indicated that Victorian jails could be closed and sold off to help fund an upgrade of Britain’s “out of date and overcrowded” prison estate.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We take the safety and welfare of these children extremely seriously.

“We are clear that children should only be segregated as a last resort, under careful control and regular review, where they are putting themselves and others at risk.

“The Secretary of State has commissioned a review of the youth justice system which will report next year.”