The YJB acknowledges the report and notes that, whilst some good progress has been made since the last inspection, further work needs to be done.
With regard to HMI Chief Inspector Nick Hardwick’s call for the YJB to commission an independent, expert review of behaviour management of children in custody, the YJB supports the underlying aim of this recommendation.
It is clear from the report that, since the last inspection in 2013, improvements to Feltham A have been made; and we are grateful to the inspection team for recognising the dedication of the staff who work there. However, and as the report also acknowledges, the young people placed in Feltham are some of the most challenging of the cohort we have across the youth secure estate.
We agree that there is a need to consider what changes should be made to ensure that the regime for young people in YOIs meets the needs of the population of young people who are now held in custody. The YJB, as commissioner for the youth secure estate, has responded to this need by issuing to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) a completely new specification to reform the provision in all public YOIs.
Our new specification better reflects the different and complex needs which are presented by the smaller, but more challenging, cohort of young people held in YOIs. It also reflects the support and training that staff who care for these young people require to be able to do their job safely and effectively. I have discussed this with the Chief Inspector and indicated that we wish to see these reforms implemented and tested for effectiveness first, before we consider whether an independent review is appropriate.
We will continue to work closely with NOMS to implement this new provision, as well as new education contracts from March this year. Although significant staff shortages at Feltham have hindered progress, we are assured that NOMS’ efforts to recruit staff over the last year will address this fundamental requirement soon. In the meantime, NOMS have been working to implement innovative solutions to move resources across the secure estate as a short term measure to address any gaps in staffing.
Improving Feltham A is very much a work in progress, and will take time because of the multiple challenges that need to be addressed. But it is a commitment that the YJB and NOMS intend to see through successfully.