IMMEDIATE improvements are being made at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in response to a report that vulnerable children were being treated unacceptably under a ‘bleak regime’, the Lord Chancellor has said.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP has detailed the measures being taken after Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) issued a rare urgent notification for the centre, which is based between Dunchurch and Barby, and holds children aged 12 to 17.
The measures include an Action Plan to improve conditions for children, increased oversight by the Youth Custody Service, and demands for an end to a culture where senior staff are not visible to children and frontline staff.
The population of the centre, which is run by private contractor MTC, is already being temporarily limited, which will remain the case until MTC guarantees all new arrivals will be appropriately supported.
Any children in the reverse cohorting unit – used to prevent children that have spent time out of the centre from spreading coronavirus to others upon their return – will be offered an increased programme of activity to ensure they have social interaction and time outside their room.
The Youth Custody Service has also increased its monitoring of the centre, with an experienced manager appointed to provide additional support and oversight. Extra Youth Custody Service staff will also be on-site for at least the first quarter of this year to ensure improvements are being implemented.
Barnardo’s has also increased its presence on site at the request of the Youth Custody Service, to provide independent assurances and give children an additional outlet to raise concerns.
In October, the inspectorates found that newly-admitted children were being locked in their bedrooms for 14 days, and only allowed out for 30 minutes a day, due to Covid-19 health guidelines.
Despite assurances immediate action would be taken, a further monitoring visit in December found little progress has been made.
In a letter to the Secretary of State, inspectors said they uncovered a “bleak picture – a spartan regime where children were given little encouragement to get up in the mornings or have any meaningful engagement with staff.”
The Lord Chancellor said: “What happened at Rainsbrook was simply unacceptable; it is MTC’s duty to ensure all the young people at the centre are properly cared for and they have failed to do that.
“This Action Plan will drive MTC to make the vital, urgent improvements needed to turn things around and I am demanding they do that urgently.
“Responding to Ofsted’s concerns about a lack of leadership, MTC has appointed a new Managing Director for Rainsbrook. Ian Mullholland has been recruited to drive improvement and has a wealth of experience overseeing change at a number of public sector services, including prisons.
“The Action Plan also sets out measures to increase the visibility of senior management and ensure they are more approachable for both children and staff. The Duty Director will be required to carry out daily tours of the centre and senior leadership will now be based directly on residential units.
“A new Head of Education is reviewing the curriculum to increase both the hours and quality of the education that the children receive.
“The Ministry of Justice will carefully monitor progress against the Action Plan and can apply contractual levers including financial penalties if needed.”