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Rainsbrook report for publication

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RAINSBROOK SECURETRAINING CENTRE
Introduction
Accompanied by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care
Quality Co...
She told the Independentthat Rainsbrook:
has the feel of a ghetto, in the originalsense of the word.
Understandably, the p...
contrived session. My experience is that children and young offenders
speak more openly, more frankly and generally more h...
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Rainsbrook report for publication

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My report on Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, commissioned by G4S and sent to the youth Justice Board, copied to the Ministry of Justice and G4S on July 28 2015

My report on Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, commissioned by G4S and sent to the youth Justice Board, copied to the Ministry of Justice and G4S on July 28 2015

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Rainsbrook report for publication

  1. 1. RAINSBROOK SECURETRAINING CENTRE Introduction Accompanied by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission, Ofsted conducted an inspection of Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, in February of this year. This was the fifteenth inspection of Rainsbrook since it opened in 1999. All previous inspection ratings have been either good or outstanding (or the equivalent in an earlier classification system). The Inspectorates’ verdict on this occasion was that Rainsbrook was inadequate (the initial assessment reported to G4S during the oral feedback was adequate, later revised to inadequate). While the achievement and resettlement of children were both rated as good, the children’s behaviour was rated only as adequate and their safety and well-being were both assessed as inadequate. The effect of that judgement on the establishment’s staff (both those employed by G4S and those employed by others including the NHS, the Youth Justice Board and Barnardo’s) has been profound. When the report was published the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers demanded that the Youth Justice Board should cease placing children at Rainsbrook. In the light of the extensive news coverage, such a demand was not unreasonable and the YJB must have considered removing the children. For example, the Chief Inspector of Prisons told Radio 5 that the Inspectorates were very concerned by what they found and that he had been personally shocked by what he saw. Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform told the BBC: This is the worst report on a prison I have ever seen because it is a catalogue of abusive practices that have been inflicted on young children who have no escape. These child jails run for profit are secretive and should never have been set up in the first place. Rainsbrook should be closed immediately. No child is safe in this jail.
  2. 2. She told the Independentthat Rainsbrook: has the feel of a ghetto, in the originalsense of the word. Understandably, the publicity seems adversely to have affected recruitment at Rainsbrook. (a Google search for Rainsbrook produces extremely negative results). The number of applicants for Training Assistant (custody officer) posts has dropped markedly (despite a competitive starting salary of around £21,000). At the recruitment day I observed, only two of the eight shortlisted candidates – including some employed by the Prison Service - attended. Background Since 2012, I have offered occasional advice to G4S on their care and custody of children. Following publication of the Inspectorate report in May, G4S asked if I would visit and provide my own impression of the establishment. Subsequently, the Youth Justice Board, and then Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, expressed an interest in my assessment. So, although this report is being sent to all three parties simultaneously, I have treated the YJB, as the Commissioner, as the primary recipient. I was neither supervised nor accompanied during my four days visiting the Institution. At my insistence I worked without terms of reference. Nothing was organised for me. I drew keys and wandered through the centre at will, speaking to staff and children as I wished. I dined with children at lunch on my first day and at dinner on my second. I visited living units and spoke to children there, in the education centre, and in the Mother and Baby Unit. I also interviewed the Youth Justice Board Monitors, the Manager from Barnardo’s Advocacy Service and the Director who was in post at the time of the inspection. I observed a regime-planning meeting for a child who had just arrived in the centre and a final discharge review for a child about to be released. I attended a review of force meeting and, I observed the recruitment process for new training assistants and met the candidates. I did not speak to children in focus groups or in any other similarly
  3. 3. contrived session. My experience is that children and young offenders speak more openly, more frankly and generally more honestly, when you speak to them informally, without fanfare and on their territory. So I spent time speaking to boys and girls at lunch and dinner when I joined their table, in their living units and in an informal session in education at the end of the academic week. I sought out boys from a particular living unit because, after some poor behaviour, they were deprived of some privileges. They were therefore unlikely to be positive about their incarceration. The children At the time of my visit there were about seventy children held in the institution. As a secure training centre, Rainsbrook was designed primarily for children as young as twelve and, a few years ago, the mean age would have been about fourteen. Nearly all of those children would have had relatively minor convictions, such as taking and driving away, and the architecture reflects that. In comparison with any closed Young Offenders Institute, it provides limited physical security. But because many fewer very young children now receive custodial sentences, the average age at Rainsbrook has now increased. The age range is from fourteen to eighteen and the mean age is now sixteen. Some children now held there have been convicted of very serious offences and are serving long sentences. Four children are convicted of rape (one is serving a sentence of ten years), one of manslaughter, and another of attempted murder. One child is held on a murder charge. The task of simultaneously holding and caring for 14 and 15 year olds serving short sentences with older children serving very long sentences and with one or two awaiting trial is very demanding. Their safety, security and the prevention of their escape requires expert and knowledgeable handling, together with lots of activity to occupy young impetuous minds and consume their energy. This is what used to be known as dynamic security and it’s practised well at Rainsbrook. There was a wide awareness among the children of the Ofsted Report and they assumed that I was from Ofsted, the YJB or some other non- defined official body, and that I was visiting with a view to closing Rainsbrook. The general view from the children was that Rainsbrook was “okay” or “fine”. There were inevitable grumbles about the boredom of
  4. 4. life on the living units but children were consistently positive about the staff – “if you treat them okay then they treat you okay too” and were enthusiastic about education. A number of the children have previously experienced detention either in other STCs or in secure children’s homes. Rainsbrook was, in almost every case, compared favourably with earlier spells of custody or securecare. It was clear to me that children felt generally safe, due in no small part to the constant presence of unit staff who, as well as accompanying them to education and other activities, take the children to the dining room and dine with them, eating exactly the same food. The food, which I also ate, is fine and although there were some protests about its monotony, the sizes of the portions consumed by most children told its own story. There were some complaints about healthcare. One child thought he should be having faster access to a psychiatrist. Another felt it unreasonable to wait for a few hours before seeing a nurse to obtain some paracetomol to treat a headache. But what I saw of the nursing, what I heard from staff in children’s reviews, and the fact that a nurse visits each living unit twice a day, assured me that care was at least as good - and almost certainly considerably better - than that which most of these children would receive in the community. It may not be entirely professional for nurses to refer to individual children as sweetheart, butI found that rather reassuring. A Muslim child claimed to have had a poor experience at Rainsbrook during an earlier sentence, including experiencing intolerance from other boys about his faith. He spoke positively about how things were improved on this sentence and the fact that staff did not allow other children to be critical of his attendance at Friday prayers or to make provocativereferences to terrorism. These are not cowed children. I don’t remember being in a custodial setting for children or young people where children presented so confidently. In particular the boys - who often respond to custody by being monosyllabic in the presence of visitors – were always keen to speak and frequently greeted me, and members of staff, by a cheerful shakeof the hand. Girls and the Mother and Baby unit
  5. 5. Rainsbrook has primarily cared for boys since its opening in 1999 and the sharp increase in the number of girls held after the closure of Hassockfield STC will have provided a challenge for many of the staff. Young girls in custody often need more sensitive management than boys and a worrying proportion harm themselves. That was certainly the case with at least one girl recently (whose file I examined). She harmed herself prolifically and seriously by cutting until she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act a few days before her discharge. But staff seem to have coped with her professionally and compassionately. I found the girls to be content with their lot and although one or two suggested to me that their location, in the Midlands, meant that parental visits were impossible, I don’t believe that to be the case. Indeed, I was impressed by staff attempts to persuade parents to visit one of the girls, by ensuring them that costs for the journey from the northeastwould not fall on them. Sadly thoseefforts were unsuccessful. One girl and her six-week-old son was living in the mother and baby unit. I spent some time with her and with staff on the unit. I was very impressed with her care, and the emphasis on securing decent release and accommodation arrangements both for her and her infant. When I revisited the centre, a week or so after my original visit, this child was being discharged and some staff had come in from leave to wish her and her baby well. I consider her care to have been simply exemplary providing a single, but nevertheless fine example, of how custody, very occasionally, can be used to give a child a fresh and improved start in life. Education Education is at the heart of the regime. I have rarely seen a penal establishment where it is delivered with such energy and enthusiasm. On my second morning I stood on the central green (between the living units) and saw the children being escorted briskly to the school from 8.30. Impressively, the Education Manager stands in the centre ticking off every child and challenging any non-appearance. This explains why attendance at schoolis so very high (as Ofsted acknowledged). Children attend in their house groups and are accompanied in the classroom by one of the house staff – who is encouraged to participate
  6. 6. in the learning and to help individual children. Educational outcomes are impressive. In 2014, and for each month they lived in Rainsbrook, children improved their reading age on average by three and a half months and their spelling age by almost five months. 24% of children discharged had a maths age of 13 years or above, three times the proportion of children who enter Rainsbrook. In 2014, children achieved almost 1900 qualifications including 34 GCSE passes, 235 Entry Level Certificates in a variety of subjects, 94 Royal Society of Public Health Level Food Hygiene Qualifications and 325 Adult Literacy and Numeracy qualifications. For a population of only around 70 children in any one week, but with many of them staying at Rainsbrook for relatively shortperiods, this is highly commendable. The challenge of educating children who very frequently have deficits in literacy and numeracy, and who in many cases will have been permanently or temporarily excluded from school, cannot be over- estimated. It is hard to see what more might reasonably be achieved. Education at Rainsbrook is first class. Use of Force Although those held at Rainsbrook are children they occasionally need to be restrained for their own safety and sometimes for the safety of other children. The key is to do everything possible to avoid the need for physical restraint. Staff are well trained, and proud of their expertise, in using what are known as de-escalation techniques. The Inspectorate felt that restraint procedures (known as MMPR) were well managed and with effective scrutiny. But they argued that such scrutiny focused too much on the holds used and too little on the “events, contexts and behaviours” that preceded the use of restraint. The principal arena for such consideration is the weekly use of force meeting. As well as examining the restraint incidents themselves, the meeting I observed concentrated very much on whether the use of restraints might have been avoided. For example, the YJB monitor probed whether the weekly house competition, which is used to incentivise good behavior, might have inadvertently been the cause of one incident.
  7. 7. There was much evidence to convince me that restraints were only used when absolutely necessary. Indeed staff were proud of their ability not to have to resort to them. And, as I witnessed from CCTV recordings, when force was used, it was demonstrably to protect the individual child or other children. Barnardo’s IndependentChildren’s Advocate Barnardo’s are commissioned directly by the Youth Justice Board to provide an advocacy service for children at Rainsbrook, acting as an independent source of advice and support, helping children to make complaints where necessary, and assisting with preparations for release. They deal with children in private and on an entirely confidential basis. For the last three years, and after every occasion that a child is restrained, he or sheis interviewed by someonefromBarnardo’s. The impressive manager of the advocacy service, Liz Saunders, is an ex journalist and lawyer, and has worked at Rainsbrook for ten years. She believed that Rainsbrook had hit something of a trough two years ago when new arrangements for restraining children were introduced. She believed that the new arrangements had initially sapped staff confidence and satisfaction at work and that this had communicated itself to the children. But she believed things had improved since then, had substantially recovered by the time of the inspection, and had continued to improve since. She told me that the main issues that the children brought to Barnardo’s were to do with release, most often relating to accommodation on release. She told me that children trust the staff, the integrity of the complaints processes, and some were worried that Rainsbrook might close and requirethem to be placed elsewhere. The advocacy manager did not meet any of the Ofsted Inspectors although she spent thirty minutes with one of the Prison Inspectors. Of the Inspectorates’ conclusion that Rainsbrook was inadequate and children unsafeshe told me “this is not the place I know”. The Youth Justice Board monitor
  8. 8. I was equally impressed with well-established Youth Justice Board monitor and with her intimate knowledge of the establishment, staff and individual children. I was in no doubt of her willingness to be resolute in protecting the treatment of children. She was insistent that Rainsbrook was not an unsafe establishment. Nor did she believe that it was unsafe at the time of the inspection. But she told me that Inspectors explained they were not only interested in the here and now when they visited in February, but were reviewing the previous year and the number and gravity of serious incidents in 2014 had to be reflected in their verdict. Incidents during 2014 There were some very troubling incidents in 2014. But, serious as some of the incidents might be, I believe one can take some reassurance from the YJB and G4S response. My experience with custodial institutions is that one must always be aware of the potential for the behaviour of staff – even those considered reliable and caring – to deteriorate unacceptably. All closed institutions are proneto this. But there is a particular danger in custodial settings. Ten staff were dismissed from Rainsbrook in the thirteen-month period leading up to the inspection. Three were dismissed for dishonesty. One was dismissed after a drug test proved positive, and six were dismissed for issues relating to the treatment of children. Significantly, only two of these ten dismissals arose from a child’s complaint. The others were either detected through managerial monitoring of CCTV, or were as a result of other members of staff reporting the behaviour of their colleagues. I believe that the YJB can take encouragement fromthat. I have looked at the history of the incidents where dismissal was prompted by the poor treatment of children. In a couple of instances dismissal was arguably harsh. A training assistant who was play fighting with a child – he piggy-backed on the child – was apparently popular with children, and the child involved persistently declined to complain about the incident, even after leaving Rainsbrook. That member of staff might have considered his dismissal to be harsh. Another training
  9. 9. assistant, being confident that her relationship with a troubled and self harming child was good enough to allow her – against instructions – to let the child drink from a porcelain mug (which the girl then used to cut herself) was almost certainly well intentioned, and a final warning might have been appropriatefor her. One incident was disgusting and involved a degrading assault by one child on another. Staff were not involved in the assault. But two training assistants were present and failed to intervene. I am disappointed that the police declined to prosecute the members of staff. The assault, which took place on December 23, was not reported by the victim to G4S, the YJB or Barnardo’s. But two weeks later, a training assistant on another living unit reported that she had heard rumours from other children that something degrading had happened to a boy before Christmas. A considerable amount of CCTV material was reviewed. The assault - which took place in a cell - was not revealed. But the presence of two members of staff, watching something in a cell in which two children were present, was identified. One member of staff resigned when challenged and the other was dismissed. A second event, occurring in March 2014, seems also to have influenced the Inspectorates’ assessment. This involved a failure promptly to take a child with an injured wrist to outside hospital when that was the clinical requirement. The Inspectorates’ view is that the decision not to send the child to hospital was taken by the STC Director personally. The then Director, a qualified social worker, vehemently denies that. An investigation carried out by a retired Ofsted Inspector and independent social worker, not in the employ of G4S, attributed the cause of the delay primarily to a breakdown in communications. He was unable to establish whether the Director intentionally delayed hospital treatment, but he concluded that to have been unlikely. I interviewed the ex-Director specifically on this point. It is impossible to be certain what happened. So I find Ofsted’s certainty about his personal culpability – reflected in a decision last week to ask G4S to refer him to the Health and Care Professions Council - puzzling. On balanceI consider that it is extremely unlikely that he would intentionally ignore clear medical advice and refuse to send a child to hospital, not least because to do so would have opened him up to potential dismissal and the end
  10. 10. of his social work career. But also the evidence suggests – as the YJB monitor put it to me – that children are taken to outside hospital without hesitation. The statistics support that: in the year leading up to the inspection, children were taken to outside hospital on 189 occasions. On 50 of those occasions this was in responseto a perceived emergency. Conclusion I understand entirely why the Inspectorates’ view of Rainsbrook may have been negatively affected by some of the incidents in 2014, particularly the degradation of one child by another. I share Ofsted’s horror about the failure, on that day, to protect a child. But that incident, and the other serious incidents which led to staff dismissals, took place before the inspection and had been, or were being dealt with by G4S or the YJB. None of the incidents were discovered during the inspection, as some media coveragesuggested. The Inspectorate conclusion was that in February of this year, at the time of the inspection, Rainsbrook was an inadequate institution and an unsafe place for children. I do not believe that. My assessment is that it is an institution in which some very challenging children are treated overwhelmingly well. The staff group, drawn from many professional backgrounds, is professional. Many of them are genuinely caring. The well-qualified management group is experienced, able and visible. In their interactions with children they lead by example. The institution may be a better establishment now than at the time of the inspection. But I doubt that any such improvement has been significant enough to explain the discrepancy between the Inspectorates’ conclusion and mine. Rainsbrook is not without its flaws. I think that there needs to be rather more challenging of the children and an attempt to get them to accept more responsibility for their offending. During my visitI heard a little too much of peer pressure as an explanation for a child’s offences. One particular child complained to me (and the YJB monitor) that he wasn’t getting a swift enough appointment with a psychiatrist and that he needed more offence related offending behaviour therapy. That may be true, but he needed to be reminded of his own culpability for very serious offences.
  11. 11. In their commendable keenness to reduce the likelihood of re-offending some children appeared to receive a barrage of short-term interventions such as anger management courses. I suggest that the YJB need to ensure that all those interventions have an evidential base and are sequenced properly. Finally, and most importantly, there needs to be open and thorough discussion with all staff about some of issues last year which led to so many dismissals. In particular, the degrading nature of the December assault, and the shocking failure in care that represented, needs to be discussed. That is not because I believe that such an event is likely to happen again, but because I’d like to see staff angered by the damage such a failure caused to the Centre’s reputation and to their personal reputations. My test in visiting places of custody for over thirty years is to reflect about how I’d feel if my son or daughter were incarcerated there. In Rainsbrook’s case, I would consider him or her to be safe and to be generally well treated. However despicable the actions of the staff dismissed in January, Rainsbrook is an institution where children are treated kindly. And with many of the children, tangible progress is made toward their rehabilitation. That is not to suggest that the Inspectorates’ recommendations for improvement should not be accepted. They are uncontroversial and I take very little issue with them. But I don’t believe the inadequacies those improvements address, mean that Rainsbrook is, or was in February, an unsafeplace for children. Sir Martin Narey July 2015

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