Inspections of Wetherby and the Keppel Unit

The prison inspectors carried out an  inspection at Wetherby and the Keppel unit February 2016  In their report they said:

HMYOI Wetherby held 272 boys at the time of this inspection, and with a certified normal accommodation of 336 was therefore not overcrowded. The inspection also included the Keppel unit, located within the overall perimeter of the YOI, but physically separated from it. The Keppel unit, opened in 2008, is intended to provide an appropriately safe and supportive environment for some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in the country. It is a national facility, and is the only unit of its kind in the secure estate. Previous inspections have reported very positively on the Keppel unit, and indeed the last inspection noted that it ‘now provided a model of how a specialist unit should be run’.

There is much that is positive about both Wetherby and Keppel, but there are also some serious concerns about the deterioration in outcomes for the boys in some key areas. I would encourage readers to look at the detail of this report, as not to do so would run the risk of failing to appreciate the many examples of very good and positive things that some extremely committed staff are delivering for the benefit of those in their care.

However, there is no escaping the fact that outcomes for the boys have declined dramatically in the area of ‘purposeful activity’, and the lack of proper recording practices makes it impossible for us to be assured that there are not serious failing in other areas.

For instance, when looking at the subject of ‘safety’, inspectors found that although the available information showed that force had been used on 437 occasions during the six months prior to the inspection, slightly less than at comparable establishments, records were far from complete. Nearly 300 documents were missing at the time of the report, making it impossible to determine with accuracy the level and extent of the use of force. This becomes even more concerning when one considers that planned interventions were rarely filmed, body-worn cameras underused and the review processes after the use of force were patchy. We were also concerned to find that pain  inducing techniques and strip search while under restraint had been used. Perhaps it is no coincidence that at the previous inspection in January 2015 we made 21 recommendations in the area of ‘safety’, but found that only one had been fully achieved.

If poor operational practice, as seen during this inspection is to be put into a meaningful context and not simply ascribed to day to day failings, it is important to understand how and why it has been allowed to take root. At Wetherby there have clearly been difficulties in the relationship between the establishment and the Youth Justice Board. This was played out in disagreements as to how the new core day could or should be implemented. The new standardised core day was designed by NOMS, based on a number of building blocks proposed by the YJB, and signed off by the YOI Reform Project. Despite this there were clearly serious issues between the YJB and management at Wetherby about whether it was fit for purpose, and the governor had implemented an alternative core day that did not meet the needs of the young people. The result has been that the regime had been applied inconsistently and unpredictably, leading to many boys having insufficient time out of their cells, not being able to attend education or other activities, not always being able to have 30 minutes exercise each day, and having to eat their breakfasts locked in their cells.

The impact this was having on the boys’ ability to access the undoubtedly good education on offer at Wetherby and in the Keppel unit, was all too easy to see, and sits behind the declines in our assessment of purposeful activity in this report. For instance, in the Keppel unit we found that 31% of boys were locked in their cells during key work periods, when at the last inspection it had been 0%. Getting the boys to education was not sufficiently prioritised, and exercise was limited to 30 minutes each day, weather permitting. The simple fact has to be faced, that despite the best efforts of dedicated teachers, with the quality of teaching, training, learning and assessment judged by Ofsted inspectors to be ‘good’, the overall effectiveness of learning and skills and work was graded by thosesame inspectors as ‘inadequate’, because the overall provision was poorly managed. With overall attendance at classes sitting at around 66%, this outcome was sadly inevitable

I have to return to the subject of the relationship between Wetherby management and the Youth Justice Board. There were clearly serious issues between them about whether the new core day was fit for purpose at Wetherby. At the time of the inspection the relationship was clearly fractured, although I was told that efforts were being made to move things forward so that a core day more specifically tailored to Wetherby’s need could be agreed. In meetings with both the governor and her team, I was left in no doubt as to the sense of frustration they felt at the situation. I make no comment on whether one party or the other is to blame for what has happened. However, there is clearly a shared responsibility to improve the relationship and ensure that the children in custody at Wetherby and in the Keppel unit are not the ones left to suffer as a result of disagreements over policy and operational practice.

As it stood at the time of our inspection, there was a clear linkage between the failure to deliver the new core day, the lack of priority afforded to education and training, and the consequent declines in outcomes for the young people. In particular, it is sad to see that the Keppel unit, once famed for its groundbreaking approach to supporting the most challenging boys held in the custodial estate, was at the time of the inspection failing to deliver the educational outcomes that had previously been its hallmark.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

May 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

 Return to Wetherby

 The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below:

  • HMYOI Wetherby and Keppel Unit 2016 (1.22 MB), A report on an unannounced inspection of HMYOI Wetherby and Keppel Unit (22 February – 4 March 2016)
  • HMYOI Wetherby (PDF, 856.30 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMYOI Wetherby (12 – 23 January 2015)
  • Keppel Unit HMYOI Wetherby (PDF, 789.28 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of Keppel Unit HMYOI Wetherby (9 – 19 March 2015)
  • HMP/YOI Wetherby Unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Wetherby (7 – 18 October 2013)
  • HMP/YOI Wetherby Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (12–13 August 2013)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (12–13 August 2013)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit Unannounced inspection of HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit (12 – 23 August 2013)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (28 – 29 January 2013)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (28 – 29 January 2013)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (10-11 January 2012)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (10-11 January 2012)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Announced inspection of HMYOI Wetherby (30 January – 3 February 2012)
  • HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit (13 – 16 February 2012)