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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

E.5: Resources

50. There is evidence from several sources that limited funding and low staff to child ratios in YOIs have in the recent past made it difficult for staff to provide for the needs of detained children and to ensure their safety.[1] Others had also pointed to a potential link between the decline in safety in the custodial estate and reductions in resourcing and staff.[2][3] We therefore considered whether there is a link between the reductions in the custody budget since 2010 and child sexual abuse in custodial institutions, and more generally whether resourcing is adequate to protect children in custody from sexual abuse.

51. The evidence heard was summarised below:

  • Professor Hardwick, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, understood there is some evidence of the spending per child in YOIs having increased in recent years. There is also evidence of recent increases in staffing levels, including at Medway STC, which might imply staffing levels had fallen too far, and that there was a link between this and the widespread concerns about the safety of these institutions.[4]
  • Dr Janes noted that in February 2018 the Ministry of Justice announced it had £64m to invest in the reform of the youth custody estate. Overall she did not consider that funding and resources were a major issue in the children’s estate.[5]
  • Angus Mulready-Jones agreed staffing levels have been too low at times. This has had an impact on the regime in YOIs because a child is locked up for longer, the response to issues is not as swift or as good and children may be unable to use a telephone. This can also mean staff are relocated, which causes the same problems.[6]
  • Steve Gillan told us budget cuts from 2010 have had a serious impact on safety. He also referred to problems in relation to the recruitment and retention of staff, commenting that staffing levels have fallen to an all-time low, with vast numbers of experienced staff leaving the Prison Service and a new recruitment programme encountering difficulties, resulting in the recruitment of inexperienced staff.[7][8]
  • Pam Hibbert, a social worker and former Chair of the National Association for Youth Justice, said it was difficult to see how reductions in staffing and funding of YOIs have not impacted on their ability to safeguard children. When she visited a YOI in April 2018, she was told by a prison officer that routinely there was one member of staff per 40 children.[9] (In contrast, we note that Vinney Green has a staff ratio of no more than four young people to one member of staff).[10]

52. On behalf of the Youth Custody Service, Sara Robinson said the reasons for safety figures in recent years included low staff numbers and the quality of staff. However, efforts are currently being made to increase the ratio of staff to children, back to the levels they were in 2013. Sara Robinson made clear that the HMPPS had the money to pay for staff, but the difficulty was recruiting and retaining good quality staff.[11] As an example, Glenn Knight, Governor of HMYOI Feltham until May 2018, told us that in June 2018 Feltham A was fully staffed for the first time. He added that attrition rates had been high, due to job opportunities at Heathrow Airport nearby, but a pay rise had since been implemented in line with the local labour market to address this.[12]


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