Children and staff at secure training centre feared “serious harm”
All children have been removed from a secure training centre after serious failings put children and staff at risk of harm, with some children saying they feared that someone would die, but MPs have questioned why the contract with company running the centre was extended.
MPs have called on the Ministry of Justice to explain why prison operator MTC was granted a two-year extension in 2020 to its contract to run Rainsbrook secure training centre despite long-term concerns about its performance.
Earlier this week it was revealed that inspectors found “serious and widespread” failings at a secure training centre (STC) near Rugby. A joint investigation by Ofsted, HMI Prisons and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that the failings at Rainsbrook STC put children and staff at risk of harm. –
Concerns about safety at the centre, which is run by private company MTC, led inspectorates to write to Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, triggering an ‘urgent notification’ for the second time in 6 months.
The Ministry of Justice announced that they had taken the decision to remove all children from the centre on Wednesday (16 June).
The Justice Committee has asked a series of questions about the decision-making process that led to the contract to run the facility to be extended despite repeated criticisms from independent inspectors, two improvement notices being issued, and financial penalties imposed.
The committee says questions also remain over the financial cost of extending the contract and what termination costs may now apply, as well as what the future use of the Rainsbrook facility will be.
The Justice Committee welcomed the decision to remove all children from Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre for their safety and wellbeing and to seek an alternative use for the centre.
“As our March Report made clear, a litany of inaction by MTC, poor oversight of its contractual relationship by the Ministry of Justice and a series of action plans not worth the paper they were written on left children vulnerable and unsafe,” the Committee’s latest report stated, continuing: “Those children have committed serious crimes; in a civilised society, however, they deserve much better from those contracted to care for them.”
During a June inspection, children and staff told inspectors that they did not feel safe and feared that someone was going to die or be seriously harmed. They said levels of violence and staff use of force are high, and physical assaults between children were common, and children can bully and intimidate each other.
The letter highlights serious failures of leadership and staff who are ill-equipped to care for the centre’s highly vulnerable children. Inspectors found that unsafe practice continues and is not being appropriately dealt with, while the disconnect between senior leaders and staff on the ground has deteriorated since previous visits.
Inspectors found that the centre struggled to recruit and retain enough staff with the right skills to care for vulnerable children, and staff shortages meant that units often only have one member of staff on duty.
Lapses in security also placed children at risk. Searching procedures were found to be poor and there was increased evidence of staff bringing prohibited items into the centre.
The findings follow a series of negative inspection and visit outcomes for the centre. After visits in October and December last year, which highlighted serious concerns – including children being kept in their rooms for up to 23.5 hours a day – the inspectorates issued the first urgent notification requiring the Ministry of Justice to set out an action plan for improvement at the centre.
Despite a monitoring visit in January showing some improvements, the second urgent notification highlights further serious issues, with Ofsted saying a full inspection report will be published in due course.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, said it was “astounding” to see that Rainsbrook STC has deteriorated even further, despite being warned about serious failings last year.
“These are incredibly vulnerable children – some as young as 14 – who need specialist care. The pandemic has been challenging, but that is no excuse for poor practice and leadership. It’s vital that long-term, sustainable improvement is secured at the centre.”
Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care at CQC, said the decision to issue an urgent notice was not taken lightly.
“As joint inspectorates, our priority is making sure that the care, safety and well-being of the children at this secure training centre is front and centre.
“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 can have on the well-being of children and young people at the service.”
Read Amanda Spielman’s letter to the Secretary of State for Justice: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/amanda-spielman-letter-to-the-secretary-of-state-for-justice-about-rainsbrook-secure-training-centre
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