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.”
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.”