HMIP Inspections of Feltham

The A part of Feltham was given an inspection in February 2021, and the B part in July 2019. The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said of Feltham A:

HMYOI Feltham A is an establishment in West London that holds children aged 15 to 18. It is jointly managed with an adjacent establishment, Feltham B, which holds young adults.

 At the time of our last full inspection of Feltham A in July 2019, outcomes for children had declined dramatically and we considered them to be poor, our lowest judgement, in three of our four tests of a healthy establishment. This decline was so acute that my predecessor invoked the Urgent Notification (UN) process for the first time in an establishment holding children.

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged eight months later, and managers had to implement restrictions to keep staff and children safe. At this visit we found that these restrictions had been implemented appropriately and despite a significant outbreak of COVID-19 among staff, the establishment had experienced very few cases among children.

Since our last inspection, progress had been made and, remarkably in the middle of a pandemic, outcomes in some areas had improved. Children were split into groups of four in which they accessed education and other activities. We found that being in small groups had improved the quality of relationships between children and staff, with more children than at the previous inspection reporting feeling cared for or being encouraged to attend education.

Self-harm had reduced dramatically with only five incidents recorded in the previous six months compared to 242 in the same period before our previous inspection. The number of violent incidents had also fallen, although one in five children felt unsafe at the time of our visit and there was a concerning rise in multi-perpetrator assaults as friction between different groups increased. The enhanced support unit had been relaunched and there was a positive ethos enabling children to spend more time out of cell, including for education and interventions, than they could have on other units.

Health services were generally good with very few waiting lists for clinics. The dental service was particularly proactive and had established itself as an urgent care centre. This ensured that children could access treatment in the early stages of the pandemic.

Time out of cell had also improved since our last inspection. On average children received about 4.5 hours a day during the week and 3.5 hours during the weekend. This included face-to-face education which had been consistently delivered since June 2020. Attendance at education had improved dramatically but punctuality remained a problem.

There were some areas where progress was not as good. Support for children to maintain contact with family and friends needed improvement to make sure video and in-person visits were accessed by all children who wanted them. Oversight of equality and diversity was also underdeveloped and many children did not feel involved in their sentence or remand plan.

While the improvement made at Feltham A is commendable, some of this reflects how bad things had been at the time of the Urgent Notification. Headway has been made with a far smaller population than usual and the challenge for local and national leaders is to consolidate and build on this progress as the population increases.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
February 2021

And in their report on Feltham B they said:

“HMYOI Feltham B holds convicted male prisoners aged between 18 and 20. It is situated adjacent to and comes under the same management as Feltham A, which hold boys aged between 15 and 17. At the time of this inspection the prison held around 360 prisoners. The prison was last inspected in January and February 2017, when we found that outcomes for prisoners in three of our healthy prison tests – safety, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – were not sufficiently good. We judged respect to be reasonably good. On this occasion we found there had been improvements in safety and rehabilitation and release planning which were now reasonably good, but a decline in purposeful activity which was now poor. Despite this latter judgement, overall the results of this inspection mark a significant achievement for an establishment that has faced similar pressures to many others that have not been able to maintain, let alone improve, their overall level of performance in recent times.

It is also worth reflecting on the context in which this inspection took place. As a result of concerns that had been reaching HMI Prisons about conditions at Feltham, but in particular Feltham A, I decided to bring forward the scheduled inspections of both Feltham A and B and to conduct concurrent inspections of both parts of the overall establishment. The outcome of the Feltham A inspection is the subject of a separate report.

Having expressed concerns elsewhere that Feltham had been left without a governor for some five months during 2018, I am reassured to be told that the two parts of the establishment will, in future, each have their own dedicated deputy governor in an effort to ensure greater resilience and continuity. I hope that this will allow Feltham B to continue to make progress, and avoid the risk of managerial focus being diverted to address the many problems we found during the inspection of Feltham A. The progress that had been made to date at Feltham B was creditable, and was reflected in the fact that in the space of some two years, it had managed to achieve or partially achieve around half of our recommendations from the last inspection. This was a better rate of achievement than we often see.

In terms of safety, there were distinct weaknesses in the strategic management of violence, the use of disciplinary procedures through the incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme and oversight of the use of force. However, the weaknesses were, to some extent, ameliorated by good relationships between staff and prisoners and, compared with other similar establishments, fewer prisoners felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and fewer reported being victimised. There had been a slight rise since the last inspection in violence between prisoners, but against staff it had reduced significantly.

A feature of the establishment that needed attention was the impact that security processes were having on the ability of prisoners to access education, training, work and health care. It was telling that our colleagues from Ofsted commented that ‘across the prison, managers did not do enough to ensure that all aspects of the prison regime contributed to prisoners’ good attendance and punctuality’. Quite apart from whether prisoners were getting to the activities to which they had been allocated, there was also the issue that there were only sufficient full-time activity places for just over half of the population. Meanwhile, some 20% of the entire population were employed as residential unit cleaners and painters, where they were under-occupied and poorly managed. We also found, when we conducted our roll checks, that some 37% of prisoners were locked in their cells during the working day, which is far too high a figure for a training prison. Inevitably, the judgement we came to for purposeful activity was that it was poor, and the section of this report that sets out the findings in this area is worthy of close attention.

Despite the weaknesses in purposeful activity, we found that respect had improved, supported by the good relationships between staff and prisoners. In particular, the keyworker scheme was making a positive contribution. Living conditions in the residential units had improved since the last inspection, but the condition of cells was no more than adequate, there was still too much graffiti, and there was still a pressing need for refurbishment in some areas, particularly the showers.

Although the quality of health care services was generally good prisoners, as noted above, were all too often unable to get to their appointments because of regime restrictions or security measures. For instance, in June prisoners failed to attend 58% of the appointments made with the doctor, around 35% with the dentist and 80% with the optician. This was clearly an unacceptable waste of NHS resources.

It was pleasing to see that the well led and well-organised Offender Management Unit had reduced the backlog of Offender Assessment System (OASys) initial assessments from 56% to 19% in the space of six months. This was a significant achievement, and in marked contrast to what we see in many establishments. Nevertheless, all prisoners should arrive at Feltham with a completed assessment, and most did not. This was indicative of a systemic weakness that we frequently see during inspections, and clearly needs to be addressed as the OASys sits at the heart of offender management processes.

Feltham B is a complex and challenging establishment in which to achieve the outcomes that should be of real benefit to prisoners and public alike. It was reassuring that some real progress had been made since our last inspection. Clearly there was still much to do, but we were heartened by the positive attitude of many staff about what could be achieved, and the sound relationships between many staff and prisoners that underpinned much of the progress that had already been made. We have seen in the past that progress at this complex establishment has proved to be fragile. I hope that on this occasion it will prove possible to build on what has been achieved and sustain it into the future.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                  September 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Feltham

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below: