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27th Oct, 2021

Children and staff at privately-run youth jail near Rugby feared for their lives

CHILDREN and staff at a privately-run youth jail near Rugby feared for their lives due to ‘astounding’ unsafe conditions which prompted the government to remove all children from the site.

Justice minister Robert Buckland removed inmates from Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, based between Dunchurch and Barby, after children and staff told inspectors they did not feel safe, fearing someone was going to die or be seriously harmed.

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

Ofsted, HMI Prisons and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have written to the minister, triggering an ‘urgent notification’ for the second time in six months, after private provider MTC failed to address ‘serious concerns’ raised after inspections in October and December last year.

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.

Mr Buckland said: “Six months ago, I demanded that MTC take immediate action to fix very serious failings.

“They have failed, and I have been left with no choice but to ask that all children are moved elsewhere.

“This move will help protect the public by ensuring often vulnerable children get the support they need to turn their lives around – ultimately resulting in fewer victims and safer streets.”

All 33 young people at Rainsbrook have been taken to ‘safe and secure centres’ across the youth secure estate.

In January, the inspectorates found newly-admitted children were being locked in their bedrooms for 14 days, and only allowed out for 30 minutes a day, due to Covid guidelines.

Inspectors said children were “being treated unacceptably under a spartan regime, where they were given little encouragement to get up in the mornings or have any meaningful engagement with staff.”

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: “It’s astounding to see that Rainsbrook has deteriorated even further, leaving children and staff fearing for their safety. These are incredibly vulnerable children – some as young as 14 – who need specialist care.

“It’s vital that long-term, sustainable improvement is secured at the centre.”

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said: “It is hugely disappointing that things have deteriorated at the STC with children and staff members not being kept safe. It is essential that the troubled and often challenging children who come into the STC are urgently provided with the right levels of care and support.”

Mr Buckland is exploring alternative options for the site, including taking it back under public sector control and repurposing it for alternative use.

Anna McMorrin MP, Labour’s Shadow Victims and Youth Justice Minister, said: “The Conservatives’ mishandling of the youth justice system is failing the welfare and rehabilitation of vulnerable children, putting the public at risk of reoffending.

“Appalling conditions in youth offenders institutions are grossly inadequate and the neglect of children worsens life outcomes.

“The government has repeatedly failed to act on past warnings, and must now outline a plan to get a grip of this crisis.”

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