The national welfare, health, education and housing systems are failing the most vulnerable young people, said the founder of the organisation tasked with running the first secure school.
The Sentencing Bill White Paper from the Ministry of Justice commits the government to opening the first secure school, which will replace a youth jail, in Kent in 2022. The Oasis Charitable Trust has been appointed to develop and run the secure school.
Founder and Leader of Oasis, Reverend Steve Chalke, said: “Our national systems – of welfare, health, education, housing, etc. – are failing the most vulnerable young people who, as a result, all too frequently find themselves caught in a persistent loop of exclusion that defines their future and inhibits their life chances.
“Working in partnership with the government, NHS England and Improvement and a range of other partners across the charitable and public sector, it is our job to bring about much needed radical change,” he added.
Reverend Steve Chalke said the secure school would have a vision focused on restoration rather than retribution. Oasis will aim to create a safe environment with a holistic approach to education, care and health. The Secure School places therapeutic, integrated and bespoke support for children, along with pathways for successful transition designed to enable them to make different choices and lead positive, productive lives at the very heart of the youth secure estate for the first time, he added.
Oasis will work with NHS England to ensure that the delivery of primary health care, health education and therapeutic interventions are fully integrated into the daily provision and culture of the secure school – creating holistic and inter-disciplinary care that meets each young person’s needs.
Oasis has been preparing for the secure school over the past year and is now looking to appoint a project director.
Clare Wilson, Secure School Implementation Lead for Oasis said they are looking for an exceptional leader to realise their vision. “Oasis is also committed to developing a restorative service network to create pathways for children that support their transition into the community or wider custodial estate – we know that whatever care is delivered inside the secure school needs to be sustainable in the real world.”
Youth Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “The overall number of further offences committed by children has fallen by more than a quarter – over 17,000 – in the last two years alone. However, those who remain are now much more likely to have a complex mix of problems, including persistent absence from school, mental health issues and family problems.
“That’s why secure schools are so vital. Health and education are key to unlocking the potential of these vulnerable children and diverting them away from a life of crime,” she added.
Oasis was founded in 1985 and has been pioneering initiatives that tackle injustice for over three decades.