Children and young people carry weapons at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre - where the culture was described by inspectors as ‘volatile’ – ‘just in case’, a joint inspection report has found.
Children and staff told inspectors of their concerns that a child or adult would be harmed or die as a result of poor practice and management in the centre, the report from Ofsted, HMI Prisons and the Care Quality Commission into the STC in Rugby stated.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, said: “Today’s report reveals a litany of failures. Rainsbrook has once more fallen drastically short in caring for especially vulnerable children, despite being warned about poor practice last year. These children need the highest quality training, care and support to get their lives back on track. It’s vital that there is long-term, sustainable improvement at the centre.”
However, a statement from MTC which currently runs the centre, said the report was based on opinion, rather than evidence.
“We are disappointed in Ofsted’s report published today. It does not acknowledge the progress employees and partners have made at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC) despite the challenges faced throughout the pandemic. Much of the report’s findings are based on opinion and are not always supported by evidence. We will continue to vigorously challenge Ofsted’s finding through the formal complaints process. MTC have always been committed to delivering good quality care to the children we had responsibility for and are saddened that Ofsted have failed to recognise this,” the statement said.
Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre has been plagued by reports of poor practice for some time. In December last year, a joint inspection by Ofsted, HMI Prisons and CQC slammed the centre for locking up new arrivals at the centre for 23.5 hours per day in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The joint inspection said the policy was tantamount to solitary confinement adding that there was “no rationale” to support the practice of holding new inmates in isolation for 23.5 hours per day for two weeks in order for them to self-isolate in line with COVID-19 guidance.
The excessive time locked up also did not consider the needs of children and had the potential to have a significant impact on children’s welfare and emotional health, the report added.
In January, the three inspectorates demanded urgent action in order to protect vulnerable children at Rainsbrook and issued a rare urgent notification (UN) to the Secretary of State for Justice because of continued poor care and leadership at the centre calling for an end to the ‘bleak regime’ there.
Indeed, a group of MPs in the House of Commons Justice Committee were left “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of vulnerable children at Rainsbrook, and questioned why the Ministry of Justice has given MTC two more years to run the centre despite the poor performance by the company in managing the five-year, £50.4 million contract.
In June, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland confirmed that work was underway to move all children from the privately-run Secure Training Centre amid serious ongoing concerns about safety and performance.
The latest inspection report published this week was based on findings from a visit between 7 and 11 June by inspectors and preliminary findings from this investigation – in which the STC was rated as ‘inadequate’ – further bolstered the case for immediate, remedial action.
There are no children currently living at the centre after the Ministry of Justice ordered their removal in June, but the centre remains open.
The full report has now been published and it highlights that while children felt cared for by most staff, many said they lived in an environment where they felt anxious and unsafe.
Children told inspectors: “Of course we are not safe. That’s just how it is.”
“Somebody is going to die in here soon," another said.
This was echoed by staff, who said they feared for their own safety as well as children’s. Staff were placed in ‘an impossible position’ due to inadequate staffing levels which left them unable to care for children safely, with staff resorting to leaving children unsupervised and locking them in their rooms in order to take a break.
Conditions at the centre are poor in some areas. Staff had failed to notice that an unused child’s room had faeces in the toilet, resulting in a fetid, unpleasant smell in the living unit, while elsewhere inspectors found gang-related graffiti on walls.
Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “In spite of the previous concerns we raised in our visits to this centre, it remained a place where children, some very damaged, were neither being kept safe, supported nor given the boundaries and education that they need in order to go on to lead successful adult lives.”
The poor practice was placing children and staff at risk of harm, as well as failing to give vulnerable children – some as young as 14 – adequate care and support, the report found.
Dr Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care at CQC said: “In a setting such as this, the interplay between health care staff and the centre staff is vital to making sure that children get the care they deserve. It can only happen if both are supported, trained and able to perform their complementary roles in enabling and providing care. Sadly, along with concerns about their general treatment and wellbeing, we saw that vulnerable children did not always have their health care needs met and they were exposed to unnecessary risk at Rainsbrook. When the joint inspectorates visited in June, there was much to be addressed before this service could safely provide care in the future.”