A ‘LITANY of failures’ at a privately-run youth jail near Rugby – where children told inspectors ‘somebody is going to die in here soon’ – has been laid bare by a new report.
Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre has been downgraded to ‘inadequate’, the lowest possible rating, by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.
The jail, based between Dunchurch and Barby, had been holding boys and girls aged 12 to 17, but all children were moved out in June when inspectors triggered a second ‘urgent notification’ in six months, after private provider MTC failed to address ‘serious concerns’ about unsafe conditions.
The new report, which shares findings from the inspection which took place that month, found poor practice was placing children and staff at risk of harm, as well as failing to give vulnerable children adequate care and support.
Children and staff told inspectors of their concerns that a child or adult would be harmed or die as a result of poor practice and management in the centre. The report describes a ‘volatile culture’ where children carry weapons ‘just in case’.
While children felt cared for by most staff, many said they felt anxious and unsafe. Children told inspectors “Of course we are not safe. That’s just how it is,” and “Somebody is going to die in here soon.” This was echoed by staff, who said they feared for their own safety as well as children’s.
Inadequate staffing levels placed staff in ‘an impossible position’ and unable to care for children safely, with staff resorting to leaving children unsupervised and locking them in their rooms in order to take a break.
Inspectors also found:
- Children aren’t always taken to planned healthcare appointments on time, if at all, and sometimes aren’t given prescribed medication. One child, who health staff suspected had a head injury, wasn’t taken to hospital to be assessed.
- Education is weak – children aren’t given access to a timetable and often don’t know what lessons they would be doing on a given day. Instances of aggression in the classroom take too long to de-escalate, leading to an unsafe learning environment.
- Conditions at the centre are poor in some areas. Staff had failed to notice that an unused child’s room had faeces in the toilet, resulting in a fetid, unpleasant smell in the living unit, while elsewhere inspectors found gang-related graffiti on walls.
- Staff lack skill and experience, leading to unsafe practice. There is too little oversight from leaders, with staff telling inspectors that they didn’t feel supported, and that poor practice is not readily identified or challenged.
- There is a disconnect between the senior leadership team and centre-wide staff. Staff and children told inspectors that the director – the third since the last full inspection – isn’t sufficiently visible.
After visits in October and December last year highlighted serious concerns – including children being kept in their rooms for all but half-an-hour a day – the inspectorates issued an Urgent Notification (UN), requiring the Ministry of Justice to set out an action plan for improvement at the centre. While a monitoring visit in January this year showed some improvements, a second UN in June highlighted further serious issues.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, said: “This report reveals a litany of failures. Rainsbrook has once more fallen drastically short in caring for especially vulnerable children, despite being warned about poor practice last year.
“These children need the highest quality training, care and support to get their lives back on track. It’s vital that there is long-term, sustainable improvement at the centre.”
Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “In spite of the previous concerns we raised in our visits to this centre, it remained a place where children, some very damaged, were neither being kept safe, supported nor given the boundaries and education that they need in order to go on to lead successful adult lives.”
Dr Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care at CQC said: “In a setting such as this, the interplay between health care staff and the centre staff is vital to making sure that children get the care they deserve. It can only happen if both are supported, trained and able to perform their complementary roles in enabling and providing care.
“Sadly, along with concerns about their general treatment and wellbeing, we saw that vulnerable children did not always have their health care needs met and they were exposed to unnecessary risk at Rainsbrook. When the joint inspectorates visited in June, there was much to be addressed before this service could safely provide care in the future.”
The Howard League for Penal Reform has consistently warned that children placed in secure training centres would be damaged and hurt, and has repeatedly called for Rainsbrook – which remains open – to be closed.
The charity’s Chief Executive Frances Crook said: “No child should ever be placed in Rainsbrook again. For decades, boys and girls have been harmed and abused while private companies have profited from their misery. It shames the nation that such cruelty has been allowed to continue for so long.
“Secure training centres are failed institutions that were designed for a failed sentence. It is time to scrap them both and ensure that children in trouble are given the care and support they need.”
A spokesperson for MTC said they were disappointed with the report.
They said: “It does not acknowledge the progress employees and partners have made at Rainsbrook despite the challenges faced throughout the pandemic. Much of the report’s findings are based on opinion and are not always supported by evidence.
“We will continue to vigorously challenge Ofsted’s finding through the formal complaints process. MTC have always been committed to delivering good quality care to the children we had responsibility for and are saddened that Ofsted have failed to recognise this.”