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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

E.14: Inspection and child protection standards


219. Professor Hardwick stressed that independent inspection is an important safeguard with a crucial role to play in protecting children, including from sexual abuse.[1]

220. The regimes for inspection differ across the child custody estate:

  • In YOIs, inspections are led by HMIP and carried out alongside Ofsted or Estyn (Wales) and the Care Quality Commission or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. HMIP inspects all YOIs against the criteria in a document called Expectations – Criteria for assessing the treatment of children and conditions in prisons (2012).[2] This is being reviewed, but it currently includes that staff receive sufficient training on child safety.[3] In YOIs, Ofsted/Estyn inspect only education and skills/purposeful activity.

  • Inspections of STCs are led by Ofsted or Estyn (Wales) and carried out alongside HMIP and the Care Quality Commission or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales.

  • Ofsted regulates and inspects children’s social care services, including SCHs.[4] The regulatory and inspection framework covering SCHs is effectively the same as the framework covering non‐secure children’s homes. The framework is geared towards creating a therapeutic and supportive environment for the children. In Katherine Willison’s view, it is important that SCHs sit within the general framework for children’s homes.[5]

221. The Inquiry’s REA identified an uncoordinated approach between the various bodies responsible for monitoring child custody establishments, which was unhelpful and increased the risk of safeguarding issues being unidentified.[6] It also cited evidence that many issues raised by the joint inspectorates have not been addressed.[7]

222. Angus Mulready‐Jones also expressed the view that the differing inspection regimes hide comparisons between the three sectors.[8][9][10][11][12][13] We note that HMIP is reviewing the surveys in YOIs and STCs, with the aim of producing a combined, single survey for both settings, to achieve greater consistency in approach.[14]

223. At a more general level, Dr Janes observed that it is difficult to conclude the inspection regime is effective when HM Inspector of Prisons said no child prison he visited was safe.[15]

224. As to whether the inspection regimes have ‘teeth’, Mr Mulready‐Jones referred to the 2017–18 HMIP annual report, which noted that of all the previous recommendations made in the area of safety, in YOIs only 34 percent had been achieved, 15 percent had been partially achieved and 51 percent had not been achieved. (Similar figures appeared in the reports for the previous two years.) It is of course proven that if one takes the inspection and recommendations seriously then positive outcomes can be achieved if the resources are made available.[16]

225. Where Ofsted has serious concerns over the way an SCH is being run, it has robust powers at its disposal. This includes the power to suspend the registration of the home, provide detailed recommendations for improvement and set a fairly limited timetable for these to be implemented. If concerns remain, Ofsted may close the home and cancel its registration.[17]

226. Looking forward, Professor Hardwick expressed concern that the proposals for secure schools contain a section on inspections which does not include inspection of safety, as well as that the government is trying to set the inspection standards and criteria.[18]

Child protection standards

227. The Australian Royal Commission recommended that detention institutions should implement their Child Safe Standards – clear, simple and accessible child protection standards – for staff, as an important protective factor. The safety standards should be publicly available and regularly promoted, including by leaders of the institutions concerned, for example during recruitment.[19][20] The Commission noted that “risk is higher in institutional care settings where children’s welfare and wellbeing are not at the heart of the institution”.[21]

228. We have considered the regulations, policy and contracts which set out the child protection standards in the three types of custodial institution in England and Wales. There is a stark difference between the framework for SCHs and those in YOIs and STCs.

229. The regulations and DfE Guide for SCHs are clear, comparatively simple, detailed and publicly available. The SCH regulations contain, at the forefront, a series of quality standards which must be met.[22] Responsibility for achieving them is clearly placed on the registered person. The quality standards include a number of measures relevant to the protection of children from abuse. For example, regulation 12 contains the ‘protection of children standard’, which sets out a number of particular standards for staff relating to child safety and welfare. Those standards include that staff must assess whether each child is at risk of harm; have the skills to identify and act upon signs that a child is at risk of harm; and take effective action whenever there is a serious concern about child welfare. The need to secure child safety and welfare is central to the regulations and related national policy in SCHs.[23][24]

230. By contrast, the regulations governing YOIs and STCs contain no quality standards relevant to the protection of children. The principal aim of YOI detention is rehabilitation.[25] There is no specific provision regarding child safety in the YOI Rules, yet there are 30 separate rules devoted to discipline. The STC Rules include a statement of purpose to accommodate trainees in safe conditions, but they contain no further specific provision for ensuring safety.

231. As to policy, for YOIs, much is left to Prison Service Instructions (PSIs). These are not as simple, comprehensive or clear as the SCH equivalent. The central policy on child protection, PSI 08/2012,[26] was due for review on 31 March 2016 but has not yet been updated. There is a list of general professional standards for staff working in YOIs, in PSI 06/2010.[27] However, none of the professional standards specifically involve keeping children safe or securing child welfare.

232. The contracts with private custody providers are not routinely published, making it difficult to understand what child protection standards apply.

233. Sara Robinson said HMPPS is looking at developing a code of practice in relation to the management of behaviour generally across the whole estate. She agreed they ought to consider whether the clear quality standards relating to children that apply in the SCH context can be carried over into YOIs and STCs.[28][29]


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