The safety and wellbeing of children in custody is paramount and I am clear that restraint should be used only when there is no other suitable alternative. Whilst the number of children in custody has reduced by 68% over the last ten years since 2009/10, this has resulted in a concentrated cohort with particularly complex needs or challenging behaviour, with children and young people (including 18 year olds) serving sentences for violence against the person offences accounting for over half (55%) of the youth custody population in 2019/20.
Following the publication of Charlie Taylor’s independent review in June, we have committed to removing the use of pain inducing techniques (PITs) from the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) syllabus, to ensure that these are a last resort to prevent serious physical injury to children or staff. Work is well underway on this, and we are looking to remove the use of PITs from the MMPR syllabus by the end of the year, with a suite of training to commence throughout 2021 to ensure full implementation and understanding across sites. In line with the recommendations made, an independent review panel has been set up which will sit for the first time in December to agree Terms of Reference, prior to the panel reviewing incidents involving PITs or serious injury or warning signs (SIWS) in each establishment twice a year and creation of individual action plans for each site.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) have visited all under 18 Young Offender Institutions for scrutiny visits during the Covid-19 period. It is encouraging that they found all sites to appear ‘calm and well-ordered’. However, there is still more work to do and the Youth Custody Service will continue to closely monitor levels of violence, self-harm and restrictive physical intervention across the youth secure estate as work continues to evaluate and learn lessons from the Covid-19 period and inform future planning.