Inspections of Wetherby and the Keppel Unit

The prison inspectors carried out an  inspection at Wetherby and the Keppel unit March 2018.  In their report they said:

” HMYOI Wetherby is a young offender institution in Yorkshire which at the time of this inspection was holding 231 boys aged between 15 and 18. Of these, around 40 were held on the Keppel unit, a specialist facility within the overall prison that is designed to hold and manage some of the most vulnerable and challenging young people held anywhere in the country. As Keppel is a self-contained unit, we have followed our previous practice and made separate assessments against our healthy prison tests. In common with all other establishments that hold children and young people, and as a reflection of the particular risks and challenges that they face, we inspect HMYOI Wetherby every year.

On this occasion it was reassuring to see the very real progress that had been made at both Wetherby and the Keppel unit. By any standards this was a good inspection, with improved assessments in every healthy prison test at both sites, except for that of safety at Wetherby, which remained ‘not sufficiently good’. I was last at Wetherby two years ago and the positive change in many areas was clear to see. A far more positive attitude permeated the establishment, relationships between staff and boys were generally positive, with many staff showing what seemed to be genuine commitment and indeed, in some cases, a passion for their work. There is no doubt that this contributed significantly to the improved assessments at both Wetherby and Keppel in the area of respect.

So far as safety was concerned, violence had increased on the Wetherby site. Most of it was not serious, thanks in no small part to effective intervention by staff. Security was now broadly proportionate without the unnecessary restrictions that we had seen in the past. However, more analysis was needed to understand the causes of violence, and although there had been many improvements in processes, these had yet to feed through into concrete improvements in two key areas: first, the actual levels of violence and second, the governance of the use of force. But for these two issues, it is quite probable that the assessment would have been higher. In contrast, at Keppel the data showed not only that the boys felt safe but that they were safe. We would encourage a comparison to be made between Wetherby and Keppel to see if there is any transferable learning.

Since the last inspection, the amount of time that boys could spend out of their cell had improved, as had the provision of education and training. It is also notable that several examples of good practice were found in the provision of health care, which was a good indication that there was a determination at Wetherby not only to meet acceptable standards but to go further and drive positive improvement.

In recent times young offender institutions have received considerable public criticism, not least from this Inspectorate. However, this inspection shows what can be achieved when a combination of committed staff and focused leadership work together with what in this case was a clear common purpose. There is of course a history in many establishments of progress proving to be fragile and improvements being allowed to fall away. I hope that this does not prove to be the case at Wetherby, and maintaining progress will be the major challenge for its leadership with the support of the Youth Custody Service over the coming year and beyond.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
May 2018
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: