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HMYOI Werrington – needs to get back on track

March 12, 2013, 9:30 am

HMYOI Werrington had a number of strengths, but staff needed to raise their expectations of the young people held there, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution near Stoke-on-Trent.

HMYOI Werrington holds up to 160 boys, most of whom were 16 or 17 years old. It had slipped back in a number of important areas since its last inspection in 2011. Too often there was too little for the young people to do, which did not help to create a purposeful and constructive ethos.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • relationships between staff and boys were generally friendly;
  • care for the most vulnerable boys was good and force was used much more proportionately than at the previous inspection;
  • the reintroduction of two social work posts ensured very good support for looked-after children and rigorous child protection;
  • boys who needed help with basic literacy and numeracy skills received good support;
  • health care provided a good service;
  • resettlement was a real strength, despite the difficulty in obtaining suitable accommodation and sustainable work, training or education places for all who needed them; and
  • the prison operated an impressive restorative justice scheme.
However, inspectors had some concerns:
  • there was a high level of fights, and there had been a few very serious assaults;
  • staff had low expectations of the boys and poor behaviour was often not challenged;
  • boys had low expectations of the staff, with comparatively few saying they would tell staff if they were being bullied, and little confidence in the complaints system as a means of resolving problems;
  • education and training classes were not of sufficient quality or quantity and staff shortages meant classes were frequently cancelled;
  • there were few opportunities for outside exercise. Only one in 20 young people told inspectors they could exercise in the fresh air every day compared with the one in two inspectors normally see; and
  • the environment had deteriorated and much was shabby.
Nick Hardwick said: 

‘Overall, Werrington had become unbalanced. In many ways it provided an appropriate caring environment that recognised the vulnerabilities of the children it held. But that was not enough. Staff were the adults in charge and their expectations about the behaviour of young people needed to be demonstrably clear and consistent. They needed to be more determined that young people, who had often been failed so badly by the education system in the past, were not also failed by the education and training provision at Werrington. For that to be so, and Werrington to be back on track, the weaknesses identified in this report need to be quickly addressed.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said: 

‘The young people whom Werrington cares for can be very challenging and I am pleased that the Chief Inspector acknowledges that the prison provides a fundamentally safe and caring environment, with constructive staff-prisoner relationships, effective resettlement provision and an impressive restorative justice scheme.

‘The Governor is working with his staff to deliver a clearer and more consistent approach to discipline and to ensure further improvements are made in the provision of education and vocational training.’

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