Inspectors praise impact of youth work in custody

By Tristan Donovan

| 17 July 2017

Youth work programmes helped to address problems with violence among boys at a young offender institution (YOI), inspectors have found.

Kinetic’s youth clubs help young offenders to build social skills and relationships. Picture: Peter Crane

An inspection of Werrington YOI, which is near Stoke-on-Trent, found that bullying and violence reduction programmes and drama groups delivered by the prison's youth work provider Kinetic Youth enabled boys to increase their understanding of the issue of violence.

Alongside additional measures, including the introduction of a conflict resolution team, the activities have helped Werrington curb the levels of violence at the prison, which houses just under 120 boys aged between 15 and 18.

When Werrington was last inspected in October 2015, 25 per cent of boys reported being threatened or intimidated by other inmates and 56 per cent said they felt unsafe at the prison. In the latest inspection, which took place in February, just eight per cent of boys said they had been threatened or intimidated and the proportion who felt unsafe had fallen to just over a third.

The inspection report also praised how prison staff, Kinetic Youth and education provider Novus work together to ensure boys had a "well-planned curriculum".

Inspectors said Kinetic Youth's outreach work on the YOI's wings was "a very effective short-term alternative for boys unable to participate fully in education and skills".

The youth work provider was also helping to develop the boys' personal skills, including team working.

Werrington YOI's multi-agency forum for addressing safeguarding, health and bullying was praised by inspectors, as was the prison's strong co-operation with the local authority on safeguarding and child protection matters.

However, inspectors warned that while the level of violence at the prison was down it remained too high. It also noted that while the use of force by staff had declined, "pain-inducing techniques continued to be used, which was inappropriate".

There was also inadequate attention being paid to the "diverse needs of boys from protected characteristic groups". Meanwhile, the prison's otherwise positive system of using merits that allow boys to access additional privileges as an incentive for good conduct was being slightly undermined by some inconsistency from staff about behaviour.

Inspectors recommended that Werrington continues to develop support to help further reduce levels of violence among its inmates and develop "an establishment-wide response to meeting the diverse needs of boys".

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