Inspectorates have demanded ‘urgent action’ to end the unacceptable treatment of vulnerable children at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre.
Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Care Quality Commission have 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.
Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care at CQC said: “The decision to issue a UN is not taken lightly. While the reasons for taking this step do not relate specifically to the healthcare provision at Rainsbrook STC, we are concerned about the impact that these issues are having on the well-being of children and young people at the service.
“It is important that the concerns found by Ofsted, HMIP and the CQC are acted on to improve the care, safety and well-being of children at this STC,” she added.
Following an assurance visit in October, the inspectors found that newly admitted children to the centre were kept in their cells for 23.5 hours per day as a result of the centre’s COVID-19 health guidelines.
In their report following the visit, the inspectorates found that children were in situations tantamount to solitary confinement yet there “there is no rationale for locking children into their bedrooms in this way”.
“There are adequate staffing resources available to provide meaningful activities and social contact for children above and beyond the 30 minutes they are allowed out of their bedrooms and within COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. Current practices therefore do not consider the needs of children and have the potential to have a significant impact on children’s welfare and emotional health,” the inspectorates said following the visit.
Yet, despite assurances that immediate action would be taken, a further monitoring visit in December found that little progress has been made.
The inspectorates told the Secretary of State that a bleak picture had been revealed including a spartan regime where children were given little encouragement to get up in the mornings or have any meaningful engagement with staff. Senior management said that they were unaware of the regime being implemented in the centre, which held 45 children.
The inspectorates’ findings include:
- Five recently admitted children independently told inspectors that they had been locked into their bedrooms for substantial periods of time.
- One boy was placed on an ‘incorrect management plan’ due to miscommunications about his medical vulnerabilities. Between 26 November and 10 December, this child had a total of 4 hours out of his room.
- There were no isolation arrangements for newly admitted girls as there are for boys. As a result, one girl was placed separately on a mainstream girls’ residential unit with other children who were no longer isolating. This child had no time out of her room on 2 days and only very brief periods of less than 40 minutes on 3 subsequent days.
- Although education work packs were issued to children confined to their rooms, record-keeping is poor and there is no evidence that children’s education entitlement is being met.
Since 2015, every inspection of Rainsbrook has judged the centre to require improvement to be good. The effectiveness of leaders and managers has been judged inadequate twice. The Secretary of State was told in the UN letter that the findings ‘provide little confidence in the centre’s capacity to improve the care, well-being and safety of children’.
Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland now has 28 days to set out how these concerns will be addressed.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, said: “Rainsbrook was warned that its treatment of newly admitted children was unacceptable, yet these concerns have been ignored. Some of the most vulnerable children are being locked up for days on end, with little thought about their safety or well-being. Leaders and government must act now to address this.”
Charlie Taylor, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, said: “It is astonishing that in spite of our original findings, the Youth Custody Service and the Centre had continued to allow children to be held in what amounted to solitary confinement, particularly after we had been assured that this was no longer the case.”
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.
“Over the past four years, MTC has committed significant investment into Rainsbrook STC, investing in employee training, new ICT systems and introducing new management disciplines. Previous Ofsted reports have acknowledged the improvements made since we took over in 2016 and recognised that children and young people now have dedicated care officers, key workers and are supported by a forensic psychology team. They also reported that training, pay and conditions have improved for colleagues under our management.
“We recognise there is more work to do to improve the centre and we do accept more should have been done during this challenging period. We understand what changes we need to make to ensure this does not happen again. We are confident the new leadership and the new measures will deliver safe and effective services that will protect and safeguard the children and young people in our care,” the statement concluded.
Assurance visit in October