Category: Ofsted

Rainsbrook STC “requires improvement”

An Ofsted inspection of Rainsbrook secure training centre, which detains children between the ages of 12 and 17, as well as some 18 year-olds, has concluded it “requires improvement”.

The inspection of the G4S-run prison took place in September 2015, several months after inspectors rated its safety and overall effectiveness as “inadequate”.

Although the safety of children had improved since the last inspection, the effectiveness of management was criticised because there had been two incidents of serious misconduct by senior staff. One of the incidents had been left unchallenged, even though other staff were present. Inspectors were made aware of it only through audio recording on a body camera (which suggests it was a restraint incident).

The room used for searching children was described by inspectors as “stark” and a window was left uncovered:

“Although no-one can see into the room through this window, new arrivals are unlikely to know this, and the thought of undressing in front of an uncovered window could provoke anxiety in some young people.”

There had been three full searches – where children are made to remove all of their clothes – since the last inspection, and many routine ‘dignity searches’ (a description of these is not provided).

There was poor recording of the use of handcuffs, so inspectors were unable to check whether children had, for example, been handcuffed when “having a consultation with a medical professional”.

As is routine with inspections undertaken by the prisons inspectorate, a survey of children was carried out. Physical abuse and sexual abuse by other children was reported by 9 and 2 children respectively. One-third of the survey respondents said they had suffered ‘shout-outs’, a form of abuse endemic in custodial institutions whereby prisoners shout demeaning insults and threats from their cell windows. Five and three children reported physical and sexual abuse by staff respectively. None of this abuse is discussed in the main body of the report.

The time children arrive at Rainsbrook is outside the control of the prison. The Youth Justice Board contracts Serco to transport children to and from secure training centres, including to hospital appointments and court hearings. On first admission, inspectors found 21% of children had arrived late at night, some after midnight.

The management of Rainsbrook secure training centre is currently being transferred to MTCnovo. Last month, Article 39 and others raised concerns with the Youth Justice Board about MTC’s track record of running adult prisons in the United States.

Read the inspection report.

Children’s services reviews – summaries for children to be axed

The Department for Education has announced its intention to repeal the duty on inspectorates to prepare dedicated feedback for children on the findings of reviews of services which exist to protect and care for them.

The proposal to repeal this duty, in law for a decade, was made in a consultation document issued in the summer. Only five organisations responded to the consultation – two councils, the Ministry of Defence, one local safeguarding children board and the trade union Prospect. Four of the five respondents supported the repeal, and one opposed it. The government’s rationale for axing the duty is that Ofsted says it will continue to prepare summaries on a voluntary basis.

The same level of support was given to the government’s proposal to remove the duty on local authorities to send the results of the joint area review to at least one local newspaper and one local radio station. However, the Department for Education has backtracked on that proposal, “[b]ecause of the importance that the Government places on transparency”.

Joint area reviews were established by Section 20 of the Children Act 2004. The duty to prepare summaries for children was included in regulations issued the following year.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, says:

“This is a seriously retrograde step. Inspectorates should be required by law to communicate directly to children, before, during and after inspections. Listening to children, and respecting their expertise, is vital to making sure services work in the most effective way. Professionals being made, by law, to sit down, think about children and to carefully write in a way that makes sense to them is an excellent mechanism for reminding us what the work is all about. This should not be left to the goodwill of Ofsted or any other body.”

BME children “substantially more likely” to be in custody

Ofsted’s assessment of the backgrounds and placements of children in care shows that those from Black and minority ethnic communities are “substantially more likely” to be locked up.

41% of the 453 ‘looked after’ children held in secure units or prisons on 31 March 2014 were from Black and minority ethnic communities.

Children from Black and minority communities make up 21% of England’s child population, according to the 2011 census. So these newly released figures show there are nearly twice as many looked after children from Black and minority ethnic communities in custody as would be expected, everything else being equal.

Local authorities have legal repsonsibilities towards looked after children. They must safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and, among other things, give due consideration to the child’s racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when making decisions about him or her.

Children can be placed in secure units because they have a history of running away and being at risk of significant harm, or they are likley to injure themselves or others in an alternative placement. They can be placed in secure units or prisons after being remanded by a criminal court, or convicted of a crime.

NB Ofsted’s data refers to children being held in young offender institutions or prisons, though in law and practice both types of institution operate as prisons.

Read the Ofsted report here.

Have your say about children’s homes

Ofsted, the organisation that inspects children’s services, is asking children and young people who live in children’s homes to give their views about the care they receive. Children and young people should be given the link to the online survey from their children’s home.  You can also contact Ofsted directly on 0300 123 1231 or enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

The survey runs until 4 May 2015. Children and young people in foster care are also encouraged to give their views.