To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) in England 2019-20 annual report, published by Independent Monitoring Boards in June 2021, what steps he is taking to ensure that appropriate practical education and training are provided in young offender institutions.
8 July 2021
During this period of unprecedented challenge, we have been required to take necessary actions in order to protect children and staff. Whilst these measures have regrettably impacted access to regime, they have been successful in containing the virus saved lives. Since ‘face to face’ education recommenced in public sector YOIs in July 2020, our sites have been providing both in-person and remote learning, operating with smaller class sizes.
During the pandemic, the Youth Custody Service (YCS) has worked with our partners from NHS England to deliver an enhanced model of ‘SECURE STAIRS’, the integrated framework of care providing the foundations for how we work with children. This focused on the importance of connectivity and took into account the impact of COVID-19, and the vulnerabilities of children and young people with complex needs. Whilst we remain committed to further embedding CuSPin our YOIs, as part of our reform programme which is running until the end of 2023, the ‘COVID-19 Support Plan’, a less intensive and physically distanced version of CuSP, is also being delivered to children and young people at this time. This plan takes into consideration the challenges of COVID-19 by allowing sites within the children and young people secure estate to maintain key relationships between staff and children, while supporting those with the most significant needs.
Following the announcement of the national restrictions at the start of January 2021, the decision was made to maintain a Stage 3 regime (and not move to Stage 4 with the wider prison estate) balancing the need to ensure the safety of staff and children, whilst also providing key aspects of regime delivery to children such as education and social interaction. In practical terms this meant the continued delivery of education, and access to gyms as part of educational PE lessons. The YCS is also taking the lessons learned from the pandemic to inform future delivery approaches. The principle of flexibility is a key part of this ethos, to allow sites and providers greater ability to meet the bespoke needs of children. This will look to be incorporated through the education (learning services) retender, which will be focused on the integration of education, custody and health services as part of a more flexible service, whilst being agile enough to continue to meet the needs of children as these change over time.