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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 2009-2017 Investigation Report

B.3: Management and inspection

17. In 2017, the Youth Custody Service was created as a distinct service for youth custody within Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS),[1] taking over many of the previous functions of the Youth Justice Board.[2]

18. The secure estate for children and young people is subject to various inspection processes:[3]

  • YOIs are inspected annually by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) alongside Ofsted or Estyn (Wales), and the Care Quality Commission or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. In YOIs, Ofsted and Estyn inspect only education, skills and purposeful activity.

  • Inspections of STCs are led by Ofsted or Estyn (Wales) and are carried out alongside HMIP and the Care Quality Commission or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. Individuals acting as monitors are also placed on site in each STC.

  • Ofsted regulates and inspects children’s social care services, including SCHs. SCHs have a minimum of two inspections a year and both are unannounced.

19. Each YOI has an independent monitoring board. Its purpose is to provide independent oversight of treatment and care in prisons, including YOIs. (STCs and SCHs do not have such boards.) The board has to satisfy itself as to the humane and just treatment of those held there. Its members must inform the Secretary of State of any concern and report annually to the Secretary of State on how well the prison had met the standards and requirements placed on it and what impact these had on those in custody. Board members have the right of access to every prisoner and every part of the prison and also to the prison’s records.[4]

20. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) carries out independent investigations into deaths and complaints in custody. Its terms of reference include a duty to investigate complaints made by children in YOIs and STCs, to understand what happened, to correct injustices and to identify learning.[5][6] The PPO’s role in complaints applies once an internal complaints process has been exhausted.[7]

21. The role of the Children’s Commissioner is to promote and protect the wellbeing and safety of children, particularly vulnerable children, and give them the opportunity to have their voices heard. This includes those in the secure estate. The Children’s Commissioner and her team undertake regular visits to YOIs, STCs and SCHs, although there is no agreed timescale for the visits. During their visits, they have informal conversations in open settings with the children, ranging from 5–10 minutes to 30 minutes. There is no formal policy about what is discussed. Between September 2017 and April 2018, the Commissioner and her team undertook four such visits. They do not publish a report of the visit but can share observations and insights with the institution.[8]

22. Alan Wood summarised the role of local authorities with respect to children in custody. All children on remand are treated as being ‘looked after’ within the meaning of the Children Act 1989.[9]

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