HMIP Inspections of Lancaster Farms

The prison was given an inspection in the October 2018, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

HMP Lancaster Farms is a category C resettlement prison serving the North West of England. Opened in 1993, the prison has an operational capacity of 560 and now holds adult male prisoners in a prison campus that contains six main accommodation units. The majority of those held were aged between 21 and 40, with most serving sentences of between two and 10 years. A smaller number of shorter-term prisoners and those serving life were also in residence. Most prisoners had arrived at the prison over the preceding 12 months.

We last inspected Lancaster Farms in 2015 when we found a prison that was reasonably safe and respectful but with more to do to improve outcomes in learning and skills as well as resettlement. At this inspection the evidence pointed clearly to some improvement, but overall our healthy prison assessments remained the same. It was disappointing that only a third of our previous recommendations had been achieved.

The prison continued to be a reasonably safe place. Arrangements to receive new prisoners into the establishment were generally effective and we found a prison that was calm and ordered. Levels of violence broadly reflected those seen in similar prisons but most incidents, with some exceptions, were relatively less serious. There was some evidence of prisoners intimidating other prisoners and there were several individuals who sought sanctuary either through self-isolation or in segregation. Support for these prisoners was better than before but remained insufficient. New CSIP (Challenge, Support and Intervention Plan) case management and multi-disciplinary initiatives to promote improved outcomes for victims and perpetrators were encouraging but embryonic. The use of force had increased noticeably but was poorly documented, which meant there was inadequate assurance that it was used proportionately and legitimately. Segregation was usually full, although staff were supportive and living conditions reasonable. Reintegration planning for those segregated was too limited.

Security was managed competently and proportionately. There was a good flow of intelligence, although some was not prioritised or acted upon with sufficient rigour. There was considerable evidence of a drug problem within the prison, notwithstanding a series of initiatives to combat the problem. Many prisoners thought it was easy to get hold of illicit substances and testing suggested a high but reducing positive rate.

Care for those at risk of self-harm was reasonably good, but too many lived an isolated experience and levels of self-harm were now much higher than the previous inspection. Case management was, however, reasonable and efforts to include families, if possible, were a good thing. Prisoners in crisis told us they felt well supported by staff. The prison had met all previous recommendations made by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

Staff-prisoner relationships in general were very good, with 84% of prisoners telling us they felt respected by staff. The lived environment was bright and spacious and outside areas were clean and well maintained. Cellular accommodation was reasonable, as was the food, and there were reasonable attempts at formal consultation with prisoners. Attempts to improve the way prisoners made applications were not yet, however, working effectively and the complaints process was undermined by delays. Work to improve the promotion of equality had started recently but it was too early to be sure whether this initiative would lead to substantive and sustained improvement. Outcomes for differing groups with protected characteristics remained mixed. The provision of health care, like many other areas, was improving and was satisfactory overall, despite often long  waits for access. Drug services, aided by a new well-being unit for those recovering from drug abuse, were very good.

Time out of cell was reasonable, as was access to the gym and library. There was good support for family ties and visits, thanks in considerable measure to the work of the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) and Partners of Prisoners (PoPs), and there was sufficient activity for all prisoners following recent increases to the number of places available. Despite this, many of the weaknesses identified at the previous inspection had still to be addressed. Too few prisoners attended education or work regularly or on time and cover for staff absences was insufficient, leading to the frequent cancellation of activities. Allocation to learning activity too often did not recognise a learner’s abilities or experience, and learning targets were of limited use. Basic skills were not well supported in vocational training and shortcomings in teaching, learning and assessment all combined to limit learner progress. For those prisoners able to complete a course, however, the achievement of qualifications was high on most courses. Overall our partners in Ofsted judged the effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’.

 There was some improved collaborative work between departments to support rehabilitation and resettlement, but many weaknesses persisted. Many prisoners did not have an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment or arrived at Lancaster Farms without one. Contact with offender supervisors was too limited or reactive, and the shortage of probation staff was a concern regarding higher-risk cases and the overall quality of risk management. Some of the case work we inspected was poor. Public protection work had improved but remained insufficiently robust, particularly concerning support for multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA). Offending behaviour work was narrow but resettlement assessments and work with those about to be released were much better.

The evidence of this inspection confirmed to us that Lancaster Farms remained a competent prison enabled by a capable management team and a generally confident staff. There was a definite sense that if you were a motivated prisoner with a determination to improve your own life chances, there were opportunities and resources that were available for you in the prison. In contrast, if you were less motivated, you could easily opt out with too little challenge from the institution. This was a missed opportunity. Lancaster Farms was a decent enough place in comparison to many similar prisons, but it can do more and do it better.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                             January 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Lancaster Farms

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