WillisPalmer launches Children’s Charter to support vulnerable children

Children who have suffered neglect and abuse during lockdown need identifying and providing with support as a matter of urgency as they return to school.

Read more
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Children locked up in YOIs for 22 hours a day for four months during COVID-19 pandemic

Most children in Young Offender Institutions were still locked up for 22 hours a day following four months of COVID-19 restrictions, the chief inspector of prisons has warned.

Following the second young offender institutions short scrutiny visit, Peter Clarke said that despite attempts by local management at HYOI Feltham A and HMYOI Werrington to reintroduce education classes, these moves were thwarted by the prison service and national staff associations.

Peter Clarke said both YOIs had taken swift action in late March, when COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced. Managers had communicated well with both staff and children and it was positive that formal consultation groups had been reinstated at both sites.

“Children at both sites told us they initially understood and largely accepted the need for the restrictions, but after 15 weeks of being locked up for more than 22 hours a day some were understandably frustrated about the slow progress in implementing activity, particularly as they saw restrictions easing in the community.”

The inspection revealed that children were spending most of their day sleeping, watching TV or playing computer games.
Mr Clarke said: “As was the case when we last visited (three different) YOIs in April, our main concern during these visits was the extremely limited amount of time out of cell for all children. The primary cause of this was the decision to stop face-to-face education.”

“As a consequence, nearly all children had been locked up for more than 22 hours every day since the start of the restrictions, which had been imposed some 15 weeks before our visit. This was both disproportionate and avoidable.”

“The government’s guidance is that children who are deemed vulnerable should continue to attend education. Children held in custody meet this definition, meaning education should have continued once the required safety measures had been put in place. Governors at both sites wanted to provide education and had, months before our visits, prepared plans that would have enabled it to be delivered.

These plans were stopped by HMPPS and national staff associations,” he added.

In fact, the lack of face-to-face education in YOIs run by the Youth Custody Service, part of the prison service and Ministry of Justice, was in “stark contrast” to the provision at other establishments holding children, delivered by other providers, the chief inspector added. Every YOI, secure training centre and secure children’s home managed by private or local authority providers has been able to deliver face-to-face education throughout the pandemic, following an initial suspension to put health and safety measures in place.

Managers and staff at Feltham and Werrington were aware of the potentially negative impact of children spending so much time alone in their cells and the effects of such a restricted regime and had been creative working within constraints to:

-Second prison staff to increase the youth work provision

- Introduce limited opportunities for children to eat communally (at Feltham)

- Ensure enhanced welfare checks were carried out by a range of agencies at both sites.

The YOIs appeared calm and well ordered, and recorded self-harm had reduced since the start of the pandemic. While the suspension of visits from family and friends had impacted on many children at the YOIs, the rollout of a secure video calling service to both establishments in June was positive.

Additional phone credit and letters were also given to children at both sites.

Both establishments worked hard to ensure that all children had accommodation on release and were met at the gate by a suitable adult. However, inspectors raised concerned over two cases at Feltham where there were difficulties in finding someone to take a child home, thus delaying their release. In the most serious case, a lack of engagement by a local authority led to a child being held overnight in custody, despite being bailed.

“This report outlines positive work by local governors and their staff who acted quickly to keep children safe, delivered a consistent regime and implemented additional safeguards when needed for the children in their care. However, progress in implementing activity has been far too slow nationally. HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) national guidance has taken little account of the specific needs of children, and this has resulted in children at Feltham A and Werrington being locked up for 22 hours a day for nearly four months,” Peter Clarke concluded.

Second young offender institutions short scrutiny visit


Make an enquiry

A multi-disciplinary organisation providing independent, high quality social work and psychological services. Contact us with your requirements and speak to a member of our team who will help you today.
Make an Enquiry

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

Fewer children in school due to COVID-19 related issues

28/10/2020

Fewer children are attending school as attendance has fallen from 89 per cent to 86 per cent, according to Department for Education figures.

Approximately 86% of pupils on roll in state-funded schools, excluding schools on half term, attended school. While attendance in state-funded primary schools is 90%, attendance in state-funded secondary schools is 82%, excluding schools [...]

Read Full Story

Technology problems remain in remote hearings in family justice system

27/10/2020

Parents, other family members and organisations supporting parents have reported concerns about remote hearings in the family justice system.

While most professionals who responded to the survey carried out by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory felt that things were working more smoothly than in April when Nuffield carried out a previous survey, parents, other family members [...]

Read Full Story

Most victims and survivors of abuse who seek redress have negative experience

26/10/2020

The vast majority of victims and survivors of non-recent abuse who have sought redress have had a negative experience, research has found.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse carried out surveys on the subject of redress and asked respondents if they had sought redress for the abuse they suffered. Of the 121 respondents, 52.1% said [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
Delivering a diverse, reliable range of services to children and their families across the UK
D1, Parkside, Knowledge Gateway, Nesfield Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 3ZL
Contact Us
closechevron-downbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram