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24th Jul, 2021

Government response to damning Ofsted report on youth jail slammed as ‘pitiful’

THE GOVERNMENT’S response to a damning Ofsted report on a privately-run youth jail near Rugby has been slammed as ‘pitiful’.

All 33 inmates were removed from Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre last month when Ofsted, HMI Prisons and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) triggered a second ‘urgent notification’ in six months, after private provider MTC failed to address ‘serious concerns’ about unsafe conditions.

Justice minister Robert Buckland has told Ofsted that the rehousing process has now concluded, with transfers “handled appropriately and sensitively, and with the children’s needs and interests at the forefront of decision making.”

He added: “Each child has received an individual allocation assessment tailored to their needs and risks. The Youth Custody Service has spoken to every child to talk through options and explain the reasons why they were being transferred.

“Follow-up contact has or will be made with each child to determine how they are settling in and to assess any ongoing support required from the receiving establishment.”

He added he was currently considering all options for the site’s future.

He said: “When these commercial discussions have concluded, I will issue a fuller response once considerations around the centre’s future have concluded.

“Prior to any future decisions, the concerns raised in the December 2020 and June 2021 Urgent Notifications will be fully considered to ensure the safety, care and wellbeing of children.”

Junior justice minister Alex Chalk has told the Commons Justice Committee there was a “very material possibility” the jail could be brought back under public control.

Other proposals include shutting down the centre or using the site for another purpose.

Anna McMorrin MP, the shadow minister for victims and youth justice, has called for an independent review.

She said: “This is a shocking dereliction of duty and this pitiful response from the government doesn’t even begin to cut it.

“The Tories have overseen a dangerous deterioration of conditions in youth custody which undermines the rehabilitation of children and puts working people and families at risk of increased reoffending and crime.

“Conditions at Rainsbrook secure centre, including threats to the lives of children and staff, are not isolated incidents but a damning reflection of the Conservatives’ appalling mishandling of the youth justice system.

“It took two urgent calls before Ministers acted and we are witnessing an alarming pattern of failure across all youth facilities, with worrying reports from Oakhill, as well as the recent closure of Medway.

“Labour is calling for an urgent independent review of private youth custody to understand why the broken system is failing children and the public, and for Ministers to urgently get a grip of the crisis they have created.”

Inmates at the centre, based between Dunchurch and Barby, were moved after children and staff told inspectors they did not feel safe, fearing someone was going to die or be seriously harmed.

An inspection in June found physical assaults between children and staff use of force were common, with children able to bully and intimidate each other.

Inspectors found ‘serious failures of leadership’ and staff ‘ill-equipped to care for the centre’s highly vulnerable children’, with lapses in security placing children at risk and evidence of staff bringing prohibited items into the centre.

Education provision was found to be poor and the learning environment unsafe, while children’s heath was being put at risk by not being taken to medical appointments on time and going without their prescribed medication.

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