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Inspectorates warn children at Rainsbrook were at risk of harm

Children held at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre were placed at risk of harm as a result of serious and widespread failings at the centre, a joint inspection by Ofsted, The Care Commission and HMI Prisons has found.

The joint report comes after the Lord Chancellor Lord Buckland announced last week that all children were to be removed from Rainsbrook amid serious ongoing concerns about safety and performance.

The inspectorates have such grave concerns about safety at the MTC-run centre near Rugby, that they have written to the Secretary of State for Justice triggering an urgent notification (UN) for the second time in six months. Robert Buckland now has 28 days to respond.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, said: “Despite being warned about serious failings last year, it’s astounding to see that Rainsbrook has deteriorated even further, leaving children and staff fearing for their safety. These are incredibly vulnerable children – some as young as 14 – who need specialist care. The pandemic has been challenging, but that is no excuse for poor practice and leadership. It’s vital that long-term, sustainable improvement is secured at the centre.”

Amanda Spielman

In December, following an inspection, the inspectorates raised concerns that children arriving at Rainsbrook were held in their cells for 23.5 hours per day for two weeks. The report said there was “no rationale” to support the practice of holding new inmates in isolation for two weeks in order for them to self-isolate in line with COVID-19 guidance.

In January, Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Care Quality Commission issued a rare urgent notification (UN) to the Secretary of State for Justice because of continued poor care and leadership at the MTC-run centre near Rugby calling for an end to the ‘bleak regime’ there.

Urgent notifications were introduced in 2017 for prisons requiring urgent attention and means they have 28 days to introduce tough measures that will drive improvement. The Secretary of State is directly alerted by the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) if an urgent issue needs addressing to ensure that recommendations are acted upon immediately. A team of specialists is then brought together to ensure immediate action is taken, along with a more in-depth plan to ensure sustained improvement for the prison in the long term.

After the urgent notification was issued in January, a statement from MTC, which runs Rainsbrook STC, said: “MTC recognise the severity of this urgent notification and remain committed to strengthening and improving our work at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC).”

“Following Ofsted’s initial recommendations, we immediately installed new leadership and implemented measures to improve and strengthen governance and management oversight at the centre.”

However, in March, the House of Commons Justice Committee were left “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of children at Rainsbrook.

Last week, the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said: “Six months ago, I demanded that MTC take immediate action to fix the very serious failings at Rainsbrook.

“They have failed to deliver and I have been left with no choice but to ask that all children are moved elsewhere as soon as possible.”

In the joint inspection, carried out in June, children and staff told inspectors that they did not feel safe, fearing that someone was going to die or be seriously harmed. Levels of violence and staff use of force are high. Physical assaults between children are common, and children are able to bully and intimidate each other.

Serious failures of leadership were highlighted along with staff being ill-equipped to care for the centre’s highly vulnerable children. Inspectors found that unsafe practice still continues and is not being appropriately dealt with, while the disconnect between senior leaders and staff on the ground has deteriorated since previous visits.

Inspectors also found:

  • The centre has struggled to recruit and retain enough staff with the right skills to care for vulnerable children. Staff shortages mean that units often only have one member of staff on duty.
  • Lapses in security are placing children at risk. Searching procedures are poor and there is increased evidence of staff bringing prohibited items into the centre.
  • Education provision is poor, with children making little progress. Inspectors saw instances of aggression that took staff too long to de-escalate, making the learning environment unsafe. On two occasions, children were seen locked in classrooms unsupervised.
  • Children aren’t always being taken to medical appointments or are taken late, and as a result are sometimes refused treatment. Children are often going without their prescribed medication, putting their health at risk.

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “It is hugely disappointing that in spite of the previous Urgent Notification, things have deteriorated at the STC with children and staff members not being kept safe. It is essential that the troubled and often challenging children who come into the STC are urgently provided with the right levels of care and support.”

A statement from MTC which runs Rainsbrook STC said: “The welfare of the children we look after at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC) is our utmost priority. Our dedicated and professional team have worked tirelessly to keep children safe and to address all of Ofsted’s recommendations.

“Since December 2020, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), we have addressed the issues behind the previous Urgent Notification (UN), appointed a new centre director and education provider and overhauled staff training, pay and conditions. No child is now isolated on admission and attendance in education has increased from 80 per cent in February to 100 per cent of children in the first weeks of June.

“Despite repeated requests, Ofsted continues to refuse to share with us the information that sits behind today’s assessment which reflects their initial feedback to us and the MOJ last Friday. We are deeply concerned, disappointed and frustrated that they have not and will not take on board our representations made so far. We strongly refute their findings and we will continue to vigorously challenge Ofsted as we proceed with the fact checking process,” the statement concluded.

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