Inspections of Wetherby and the Keppel Unit

The prison inspectors carried out an  inspection at Wetherby and the Keppel unit March 2019.  In their report they said:

“HMYOI Wetherby is a young offender institution (YOI) in Yorkshire with space for up to 326 boys aged between 15 and 18. Of these, up to 48 could be held on the Keppel unit, a specialist facility within the prison that is designed to hold and manage some of the most vulnerable and challenging children from anywhere in the country. At the time of this inspection, however, just 250 children were in custody. 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 as a reflection of the risks and challenges that they face, we inspect HMYOI Wetherby annually.

When we inspected last year, we found an institution that was progressing well, and was achieving reasonably good or better outcomes in nearly all the healthy prison tests we assessed. This inspection was equally good; indeed, safety had improved on the Wetherby side of the institution to the extent that all eight of our assessments were now at least reasonably good or better. Keppel in particular should be commended for the good outcomes it was achieving for some very vulnerable and challenging children.

Both institutions were comparably safe. Children were correctly assessed and supported on arrival and given a good induction. Child protection work was, for the most part, effective although some referrals to the local authority were missing. Levels of self-harm were comparable with other YOIs but higher on Keppel and reflected the vulnerabilities of the children on the units. The care such children in self-harm crisis received was generally well integrated and very good, although an exception was the too frequent use of strip clothing with seemingly insufficient justification.

The amount of violence in Wetherby had fallen slightly and was now lower than comparable prisons, with some good robust initiatives to hopefully reduce it further. There were also several schemes in place to incentivise young people but they were undermined by too great an emphasis on punishment over reward. Use of force remained high and although it was now better supervised, in our view there needed to be greater evidence of de-escalation and a further reduction in last resort pain-inducing techniques.

Overall the quality of relationships between staff and young people remained a real strength of the institution. Staff expressed pride in their work and knew the children well. Children also spoke positively about the influence of the Governor, which was unusual and impressive. Formal consultation with children was, however, more limited and a missed opportunity. Living conditions continued to improve and were particularly good in the Keppel unit. Work to promote equality and diversity was being prioritised and children with protected characteristics were receiving some useful and meaningful support. Health services again, remained good.

Time out of cell had improved and PE provision was very good. The delivery of learning and skills was well led, and priority had been given to maintaining high levels of attendance. Across both sites there was enough activity for all. The quality of teaching was good and educational and vocational achievements were high. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills to be ‘good’.

Both Wetherby and Keppel had up-to-date reducing reoffending strategies and action plans based on useful assessments of need. Resettlement needs were supported by some good casework and all young people had a sentence or remand plan. Contact with supervisors was better in Wetherby but needed to improve further. In the Keppel unit contact was much more structured. Public protection measures were effective.

Overall Wetherby continues to be a well-led institution, run by a confident staff group delivering useful outcomes for children. We observed considerable initiative and energy and a very evident commitment to ongoing improvement. We have made a small number of recommendations which we hope will assist this process.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
May 2019
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: