Beds switch policy under renewed fire

Fresh concern has been raised about the Youth Justice Board’s
strategy to reduce the number of beds contracted from local
authority secure children’s homes (Laschs).

It comes just days before one of the two remaining homes in London,
Stamford House, was due to close after the Youth Justice Board
decided not to renew its contract.

The YJB wants to reduce beds in secure homes, while increasing the
number in privately run secure training centres (STCs), which it
believes are more cost-effective.

But Enver Solomon, principal policy officer at the Prison Reform
Trust, said STCs cost less to run because staff were paid less and
worked in inferior conditions.

As a result, STCs attracted “a lot of inexperienced staff” who were
not used to dealing with the challenging behaviour posed by young
offenders, he warned. This has led to high staff turnover

Solomon said the STCs were also “far too large to deal with
youngsters with such complicated needs”.

Angus Mackay, project director of London Secure Services, said
Laschs could attract a better calibre of staff because they offered
higher salaries. He said most appointments involved trained staff
with at least two years’ experience in managing people with
challenging behaviour.

A YJB spokesperson insisted that, although the cost-effectiveness
of STCs was a consideration, it was not the only reason for the
decision to increase their number of places. Whereas Laschs take
children on welfare grounds as well, STCs are intended for young
offenders only.

She said variations in staff pay were the result of different
geographical areas and local authority pay scales. Although the
social work experience among STC staff varied, they would all
undergo intensive training before they started.

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