HMIP Inspections of Feltham

 The Feltham A side of the prison was given an inspection in January 2019,  the Feltham B side was inspected in 2017. 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 is an institution in West London comprising a facility for young adult prisoners and a smaller facility, Feltham A, holding children aged 15 to 18. Although Feltham A could accommodate 180 children, there were just 148 in residence at the time of the inspection. This inspection concerned only Feltham A and, in keeping with our inspection arrangements for similar institutions for children and young people, was the latest in a cycle of annual inspections.

Last year we reported on a much-improved institution where good leadership had resulted in outcomes across three of our healthy prison tests – safety, care and resettlement – being reasonably good. More needed to be done to improve purposeful activity and we cautioned that any loss of leadership focus could expose the fragilities, which at the time, we felt characterised some of the improvements we had observed. In light of the clear warning in our last report it was disappointing to be told that since our last visit, there had been an interregnum when Feltham had been left without a governor for a period of five months. A new governor was now in post and beginning to stabilise the establishment, but it was evident to us that there had been a degree of drift resulting in deteriorating outcomes, notably in safety and care.

Feltham A was now not safe enough. Arrangements to receive young people into custody were adequate despite there frequently being quite long waits in court cells following the completion of proceedings, and often long journeys from the courts. Risk assessments on arrival were appropriate, although first night accommodation needed to be cleaner and better prepared, and induction needed to be delivered promptly.

There was evidence of a significant increase in the number of children self-harming. The case management of those in crisis was reasonable. The care experienced by those in need was also reasonably good, although it would have been better if such children were not locked up, often alone, for extended periods. General child protection and safeguarding arrangements remained robust.

 In our survey some 13% of children said they currently felt unsafe and levels of violence had increased significantly since the last inspection; the levels of violence are now comparable with those of similar institutions. Initiatives to reduce violence existed, but needed to be applied with more rigour and coordination. Similarly, a comprehensive behaviour management strategy had been formulated, but it was applied inconsistently. Oversight had lost focus; the enhanced support unit, meant to help children with complex needs, was underused; incentive arrangements no longer sufficiently motivated children; and operational staff were neither setting ambitious standards nor sufficiently challenging antisocial behaviour.

The application of ‘keep-apart protocols’, a mechanism to separate individuals or gangs who were perceived as a threat to one another, had become all-consuming. We understood the over-riding need to keep children safe from one another, but such arrangements were having an impact on all aspects of the regime, limiting opportunities for children to make any progress. The prison needed to rethink this approach and develop new strategies for conflict resolution.

In our survey nearly two-thirds of children told us they had been physically restrained and it was unquestionably the case that the use of force had increased. Oversight and scrutiny were, however, lacking and we found evidence of poor practice, including the use of pain-inducing techniques, that had not been accounted for. We were encouraged to see that children were now no longer subject to segregation in the neighbouring adult facility. However, those now subject to separation on normal location spent too long locked up and required better and more active management plans.

As with safety, outcomes in care were also not sufficiently good. Too few children felt respected by staff and too many suggested they felt victimised. We did see many patient and caring encounters, but too many staff were too preoccupied with keeping children apart to be able to develop trusting relationships. The residential environment had deteriorated and we could best describe many cells as spartan. Consultation, application and complaints procedures were just adequate, but would benefit from tighter more accountable oversight. There were gaps in the work undertaken to promote equality and much more could have been achieved with a little more application and creative energy. Health services met most needs.

At this inspection our roll checks found 26% of children locked in cell during the working day, a situation that was worse than last year and overall very poor. However, there was evidence of real improvements to the education and training curriculum and to the management of teachers. Most children valued education and behaved well. Despite this, attendance and punctuality were poor. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills as ‘requires improvement’.

Outcomes in resettlement work were reasonable, but there were a number of shortcomings. The reducing reoffending strategy and oversight arrangements needed to be updated, although partnership working with third-sector organisations provided invaluable support. We found that most children had a training or remand plan and that these were reviewed regularly. Case workers were motivated, but needed more training support. Public protection arrangements were managed well, but offending behaviour interventions had been limited by staff shortages and also by the imposition of the ‘keep-apart requirements’.

Feltham is a high profile and challenging institution, and the decline in standards since the last inspection was disappointing. However, we were impressed by the new governor’s commitment to the institution and her grasp of the issues that need attention.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
March 2019
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

and in their report on Feltham B they said:

“This inspection of Feltham B, following a rather more optimistic inspection in July 2014, was disappointing. Despite some good work being carried out by staff across many areas of the prison, this inspection found that the young men being held there were living in an unsafe environment, were often afraid for their own safety and were enduring a regime that was unsuitable for prisoners of any age, let alone the young men at Feltham.

Since the last inspection there had been a significant increase in violence, and nearly half of the prisoners told us they had felt unsafe during their time at Feltham. One in four of those we surveyed – double the number in July 2014 – told us that they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. The response to this increase in violence had been ineffective, and the prison seemed to be locked into a negative cycle of responding to violence with punitive measures and placing further restrictions on the regime to keep people apart. This response had not worked and there did not appear to be any coherent plan to address the issue of behaviour management in a different or more positive way.

Some of the young men held at Feltham were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours each day During the inspection we found that around a third of the prisoners were locked up during the core day, and were therefore not getting to training or education. Every meal at Feltham was taken alone in the prisoner’s cell. Meanwhile, violence had risen, as had the use of force, and a large backlog of adjudications – which were largely in response to the violence – had accumulated.

The violence at Feltham is often serious, and one should not underestimate the risks faced by staff on a daily basis. During the course of this inspection an officer was seriously assaulted, and there were many examples shown to us of large-scale fights which could easily have led to tragic consequences but for skilled and courageous intervention by staff. Nevertheless, a new approach is needed. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme did not appear to be having any significant impact on behaviour, while the strategy for dealing with gang-related issues was largely ineffective and mediation was no longer being used as a means of reducing violence. We were told this was because of objections from the staff association, which, if true, is troubling.

While the violence and the poor regime overshadowed this inspection, it would be wrong not to recognise that, despite everything, there was some very good work being carried out by dedicated staff. We identified four examples of good practice in the provision of health care, and it was most impressive that the mental health team contacted patients seven days after discharge to check up on their welfare. Many examples of good work are described in the body of this report and there is. indeed much that the committed members of staff who work at Feltham can be proud of.

In this introduction I have focused on the subject of violence and the response to it, as these have shaped so much of what happens at Feltham B. There are many other important issues that the inspection identified that are described in this report and which, in many cases, have given rise to recommendations. I would urge the reader to look carefully at the detail of the report, and those to whom recommendations are made to take them seriously.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
April 2017
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: