Inspectors slam ‘bleak regime’ at privately-run children’s jail


Inspectors have called for urgent action to prevent the unacceptable treatment of vulnerable children in a ‘bleak regime’ at a privately-run children’s prison.

Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have issued a rare urgent notification (UN) to the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, over the ‘continued poor care and leadership’ at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC), near Rugby in Warwickshire.

In October 2020 inspectors found that, due to Covid-19 health guidelines, newly-admitted children – some as young as 15 – were being locked into their bedrooms for 14 days, and only allowed out for 30 minutes a day.

A joint statement issued on behalf of Ofsted, HMIP and the CQC, said a further monitoring visit in December found that little progress had been made, despite assurances that immediate action would be taken.

The letter to the Justice Secretary outlined what is described as a spartan regime where children were given little encouragement to get up in the mornings or have any meaningful engagement with staff.

Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have issued a rare urgent notification (UN) to the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, over the ‘continued poor care and leadership’ at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (pictured), near Rugby in Warwickshire

Inspectors said Rainsbrook, which holds around 45 children, had been judged to require improvement at every monitoring visit since 2015.

Problems highlighted by inspectors include independent claims by five recently-admitted children that they had been locked into their bedrooms for substantial periods of time.

One boy said he was placed on an ‘incorrect management plan’ due to miscommunications about his medical vulnerabilities, and had spent a total of four hours outside his room between November 26 and December 10.

The Justice Secretary was told in the urgent notification letter that the findings ‘provide little confidence in the centre’s capacity to improve the care, well-being and safety of children’.

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 chief inspector 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.’

Meanwhile, Rosie Benneyworth, chief inspector of primary medical services and integrated care at the CQC, said: ‘The decision to issue a UN is not taken lightly.

The letter to the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (pictured) outlined what is described as a spartan regime where children were given little encouragement to get up in the mornings or have any meaningful engagement with staff

The letter to the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (pictured) outlined what is described as a spartan regime where children were given little encouragement to get up in the mornings or have any meaningful engagement with staff

‘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.’

Rainsbrook is operated by MTC and provides accommodation for up to 87 children aged 12 to 17 years, who are serving a custodial sentence or on remand from the courts.

In a statement, MTC said: ‘MTC recognise the severity of this urgent notification and remain committed to strengthening and improving our work at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre.

‘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.’

It is understood that no more boys will be placed at Rainsbrook until further notice, while every effort will be made to pause the placement of girls, except in exceptional circumstances.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer MP said: ‘These findings are incredibly concerning and disappointing, particularly as MTC gave repeated assurances that they would act on previous warnings.

‘We have immediately stopped placing young people at Rainsbrook and have appointed additional, experienced management staff to oversee the swift and thorough improvements we are demanding.’

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