Report on separation of children in young offender institutions in England and Wales

Date: 11th March 2020
Category: Child justice system

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The report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons found ‘fundamental flaws’ and ‘multiple and widespread failings’ that have left many children effectively held in harmful solitary confinement. 

The inspection investigated outcomes for children separated from their peers in five young offender institutions (YOIs) in England and Wales. 85 interviews were carried out with separated children and staff responsible for their care. The investigation also looked in detail at the cases of 57 separated children.

Findings included:

  • Children’s experience of separation differed dramatically between YOIs and even between different units of the same YOI.
  • The regime that was offered to most separated children was inadequate. Nearly all separated children spent long periods of time in their cell without any meaningful human interaction. Some children were unable to access a daily shower and telephone call. In the worst cases children left their cells for just 15 minutes a day.
  • Failures of oversight existed at both local and national level, meaning that leaders and managers did not have the basic information needed to identify and address problems. Current daily checks by managers, nurses and chaplains gave an illusion of oversight. However, these checks were often cursory, through a locked door or did not happen at all.
  • Weak or non-existent integration planning which meant some children were separated for far too long.

The report concluded that failures in the current practice are so severe that an entirely new approach is needed.