Assaults spark call to rethink child focus

A prison officers leader has called for a rethink of the “child-centred” approach in many young offender institutions because of an alleged increase in violent assaults on staff.

Steve Bostock, a member of the Prison Officers Association’s national executive committee, told the conference that some assaults were so serious that perpetrators would receive custodial sentences if they occurred on the street.

He told the Youth Justice Board conference that recent disturbances at Hindley and Lancaster Farms YOIs had put strain on the system.

Bostock said: “A child-centred approach does not take into account the pressures on establishments. We need to give prison governors back the power to deal with violent young people as they see fit.”

He also said that prison officers’ roles were being reduced to “bedding and unlocking” because of an influx of specialist staff, making it difficult to develop officers’ skills.

But Mark Brundrett, the manager of Manchester Youth Offending Team, which handled the case of Sam Elphick, a 17-year-old young offender who committed suicide at Wigan Royal Infirmary in September, disagreed with Bostock.

He said Elphick’s case highlighted the need to change the adult culture in prisons holding young people.

Fay Deadman, inspection team leader at the prison inspectorate, said that while more staff were trained to work with children, YOIs still had rules based on the adult regime that did not meet children’s needs.

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