The Youth Custody Service (YCS) monitors performance at Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) and Secure Training Centres (STCs) very closely, working with establishments to ensure that recommendations from the independent inspectorates are acted upon promptly. The YCS captures a range of performance information for both YOIs and STCs (noting the differences across sectors). This information is discussed widely with a range of partners and stakeholders to assess performance and address issues as required, to help support and improve the delivery across our sites. In addition, a new YCS assurance framework will be developed throughout the year, designed to ensure that YCS is best able to monitor delivery and identify risks and with appropriate support from wider HM Prison and Probation Service take action to swiftly resolve as well as prevent issues from occurring.
The impact of COVID-19, and need to following physical distancing approaches, in line with national guidance, inevitably impacted regime delivery within sites throughout the last year. However, early indications from research commissioned by the YCS, in collaboration with academics, to evaluate and learn lessons from the impact and response to COVID-19, has shown that the large majority of children report 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 the research that there were positive reports of relationships between both children and children, and children and staff.
We are committed to improving the safety and life chances for the children in custody, investing in staff, education, psychology services and mental health support. This is underpinned by the Framework of Integrated Care (SECURE STAIRS) which sets out the principles for how our secure settings should work with and look after children. We continue to support and develop our brave and hardworking operational staff, with funding provided for our frontline officers to take up a degree level qualification in youth justice. As of March, there were 201 youth justice specialist officers already in post, with a further 319 staff signed up or undertaking the learning.