Social workers ‘fail’ to protect inmates

Social workers have been criticised for “washing their hands” of
responsibility for children in young offenders institutions.

Speaking at a conference organised by penal reform charity the
Howard League, Rachel Hodgkin of the Children’s Rights Alliance
said social workers were failing to fulfil their child protection

Despite a High Court ruling last November that the Children Act
1989 applies to children in YOIs, they were still not receiving the
same level of protection as others, Hodgkin said.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers, who also spoke at the
conference, added that she was worried about those in YOIs because
area child protection committees “do not want to know” about

“The prison service and the local social services department have a
split responsibility but my great fear is that the children will
fall through that gap between the two and everyone will point the
finger at someone else,” Owers said.

But social workers said they were unable to influence how children
were treated within the prison system, partly because there were
unclear procedures for making complaints about punishments meted
out by prison officers.

Another speaker, barrister Ian Wise, said he believed the Howard
League’s victory would “open the door to a whole raft of legal
challenges, which will shed light on this murky area”.

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