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