Feltham a Young Offenders Institution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 2:22 pm, 24th July 2019

The hon. Lady is right, and I spoke to the Chairman of the Justice Committee this morning to discuss his visits, the Committee’s work and the urgent notification. The hon. Lady is right to highlight the violence and self-harm. I would sound a slight note of caution—it is only a slight one—on the incidences of self-harm; it is also important that we look at the number of individuals involved, because some individuals might be prolific self-harmers who account for a very large number of incidents, so there will be a small number of individuals. That is in no way to detract from its significance, but it is important that we are clear about that.

The hon. Lady asks about specific steps that are being taken. First, as I have made clear, we have placed a temporary block on the further placement of young people in Feltham; its capacity is 180, but about 110 young people are there at present, so there is room within Feltham for the staff to stabilise the situation and work on improving matters. The second step has been an urgent review of cell buttons—call buttons. That was highlighted in the report; it may appear to be a small issue, but it is extremely important that when someone buzzes for help or they need help that call is answered, so we have undertaken a review to check that the buttons are working effectively.

As I have also said, additional senior level resource is already going in, to bring additional experienced resource in, but also to support the governor in delivering on the action plan and driving forward rapid improvements. Andrew Dickinson, the governor of Wetherby, will be playing a key role in that; we have seen the positive inspection report he got at Wetherby and it is important that we draw on those lessons to work with the very able governor we have in Feltham.

In terms of the buildings, a programme is already under way for works to improve showers and other facilities, and I have asked the director of the youth custody service to undertake a review of the overall state of the estate there, to identify if any capital or other works are urgently needed.

Finally, we need to ensure that, as swiftly as we can, we address the challenges the chief inspector highlighted on how particular policies were applied, especially the keep-apart policy; while that has an important role to play in tackling gang-related or other violence, it must not lead to a curtailment of the regime and the active regime, which can play a key part in keeping young people active and keeping a lid on tensions and violence.