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. In addition to this, 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 meant 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).
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 failures 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’.