The combination of staff shortages and a demanding and complex population has led to rises in violence, high rates of self-harm and insufficient time for education and exercise at Wetherby Young Offenders Institution, says the Independent Monitoring Board in its annual report released today.
The report commends the dedication and care provided by the vast majority of staff, despite the staff shortages, but notes:
- There were 315 recorded incidents of assaults and 89 fights during the year, with a significant rise between May and July.
- Many young people had very limited time out of their rooms for education and exercise, partly due to staff shortage 741 classes were cancelled during the year.
- Many young people have complex mental health needs, and it is challenging to keep them safe. The high rates and severity of self-harm, particularly on the recently opened unit for girls, remain of great concern to the Board. Staff shortages mean that support plans to deal with the causes of self-harm could not be implemented.
- There is no additional funding for young people with additional needs who are on an education and health plan (EHCP), and staff shortages meant that custody support plans.
The Board, however, notes some positive initiatives, such as the Three Peaks Challenge which the Board hopes to see extended.
Catherine Porter, Chair of Wetherby IMB, said:
Wetherby continues to hold young people with very complex needs, now including girls.
It is not well served by the services that should exist to address the issues that lead to young people being in prison. The Board is frustrated by repeated failure of the Government and partner agencies to effectively address the problem of knife crime.
A radical approach is urgently required and must be given the priority it deserves.
37 of the children at Wetherby are sentenced or on remand for murder or manslaughter, a truly shocking figure. We commend the work of the staff team, but they lack the resources and additional support that is needed to deal with young people who may be both very challenging and highly vulnerable.
West Yorkshire’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe OBE said:
The report clearly identifies a number of concerning issues, in particular, the efforts across the criminal justice service to avoid young people entering custody.
To effectively address this, however; we must make fundamental changes nationally, with sustained investment from Government and much greater support for youth services.
HMP Wetherby, for instance, houses young people from many other regions and it must be a collective effort to divert them from this path.
Our West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) absolutely recognise this and is working on many programmes and projects which place early intervention at their core.
In addition, the VRU continues to work directly with HMP Wetherby on training and interventions that aim to address behavioural issues and associated trauma.
To Read the full report: