To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the report of a monitoring visit to Oakhill secure training centre, published by Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons on 22 June 2021, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reports that the use of smaller bubble groups have increased tensions and conflicts between children.
The Youth Custody Service (YCS) remains committed to improving safety for children in custody. We are continuing to invest in staff, education, psychology services and mental health support, underpinned by the SECURE STAIRS framework of integrated care which provides the foundations for how the YCS works with children. Additionally, we are also carrying out work to ensure that lessons learned from the COVID-19 period are taken into account going forwards. The YCS commissioned a programme of research, in collaboration with academics, to evaluate lessons from pandemic and the results will further inform recovery planning.
Early indications from YCS learning show that the vast majority of children reported feeling safe during the early period of the restrictions, with some reporting feeling safer than previous periods of time spent in custody. Furthermore, we have also observed through early research that there were positive reports of relationships among the children and between children and staff. One of the key responses to the pandemic was to operate within smaller groups, and it is therefore considered plausible that these smaller group interactions positively contributed to both feelings of safety and relationships within sites.