Youth Custody

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 24th October 2014.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many cases of child abuse have been reported in youth custody environments in each of the last 10 years.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Establishments must report to their local authority for investigation any suspected cases of abuse or instances where a child is identified as having suffered, or is at risk of, significant harm. If the allegation or concern involves a member of staff, the establishment will report this to the designated officer, whose job it is to investigate concerns involving adults working with children.

Arrangements for the governance of child protection referrals are agreed between the establishment and the local authority, through Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards. Data on the referrals made through this process are collected locally and monitored in line with the agreed protocols.

Child protection referrals can cover a range of incidents, including complaints made by young people about any aspect of their treatment in custody. It is not possible centrally to determine how many of these referrals relate to particular concerns.

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) requires each establishment to demonstrate how it fulfils its statutory safeguarding duty and undertakes a monitoring function to assure itself of performance against statutory responsibilities. Service specifications clearly reinforce and reflect the requirement that establishments and their LSCB will reach agreement on how they work together. This agreement will include how establishments must report to their local authority for the investigation of any suspected cases of abuse or instances where a child is identified as having suffered, or is at risk of, significant harm.

This is supported by robust independent inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for all under 18 YOIs, which take place annually, and by HMI Prisons, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in Secure Training Centre’s (STCs), and by Ofsted in Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs).

The inspectorates will speak to young people and staff, review documents and observe practice. They will also engage with other partners, including local authorities, in order to fully test partnership working and delivery of child protection arrangements.

The YJB’s established relationships with these inspectorates ensures that they are made aware of any systemic issues or concerns within a particular establishment, and are then able to subsequently take appropriate action.

The YJB augments inspection findings and the outcome of local authority audits with its own assurance monitoring to identify any trends and concerns within the youth secure estate. In all cases the YJB interrogates findings and any identified or emerging trends, and takes appropriate action where necessary, including:

· the YJB’s own referral to local authorities for investigation;

· requests to inspectorates to instigate urgent reviews and

· the requirement that establishments/providers instigate action plans for service improvement.

The YJB continues to monitor the progress of these actions, in order to ensure its statutory responsibilities for maintaining the safety and well being of children in custody are fulfilled.

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