A report into the state of children’s social care has called for Young Offenders Institutes to be phased out within ten years. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, led by former teacher Josh MacAlister, called for a ‘complete and radical reset’ of the system for children’s social care, including for Young Offender’s Institutes (YOIs) to be replaced by secure children’s homes or ‘Secure Schools’. It describes YOIs and Secure Training Centres as ‘wholly unsuitable for children’ and criticises the ‘abysmal’ state of child detention in England.
A recent report into Cookham Wood YOI which is quoted in the review reveals the high proportion of boys held on remand, 44 boys out of a total of 107. It describes the length of detention for boys held of remand as ‘tantamount to a national scandal given that they are children and have not been convicted of a crime.’
The report’s author, former teacher Josh MacAlister, states that these issues are symptomatic of widespread failings across the youth justice system. Speaking on Radio 4 on Monday, MacAlister said these institutions ‘fail on their own terms’, adding that ‘they don’t help children rehabilitate’. He criticised the fact that children held in YOIs are often forced to move far away from their homes, and the subsequent difficulty of family members to visit has a detrimental impact on rates of recidivism.
He also invited anyone who felt doubtful of these recommendations to read the report into conditions at Werrington YOI which was published on Friday, which he said details the ‘appalling’ situation for children held there.
Further recommendations from the report include the creation of regionally run homes for children who have committed offences which are smaller, locally-based and more of a home environment than a prison. It also calls for the development of remand foster care and specialist residential care which is capable of providing care, support and treatment for young people with complex behavioural and mental health needs.
At a national level, the report calls for the responsibility for children in secure children’s homes to come under the remit of the Department for Education rather than the Ministry of Justice, so that this ‘failing area of policy’ is under a department ‘more likely to focus on children’.