The Youth Justice Board is to press ahead with plans to decommission beds in secure children’s homes and secure training centres.
The plan, which campaigners have called “disgraceful”, will see more young people placed in enhanced units within young offender institutions instead.
Specialist units, like the Keppel Unit at HMPYOI Wetherby, will provide additional support and interventions for juvenile prisoners, the youth justice board (YJB) said.
The move is expected to save an estimated £2.1m between 2011-12 and 2013-14.
The decision to decommission beds and expand specialist provision follows a decline in the number of children in custody and an oversupply of places in recent years.
But the Howard League for Penal Reform blasted the decision. “We welcome the reduction in the number of children going to penal custody but this is not an excuse to place more in dangerous and crime-riddled jails,” said Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League.
“It is disgraceful that the number of beds in secure children’s homes is being cut while the number of prison cells for children is being increased. The YJB is trying to put lipstick on a pig by introducing so-called enhanced units into prisons,” she said.
In the document setting out the changes, the YJB said the development of such units would enable the board to “continue to move towards commissioning services that are distinctive and able to meet the particular needs of children and young people”.
“We therefore view the introduction of enhanced units as a necessary stepping stone in this direction,” the board stated.
The document also explained that the move would help the YJB contribute to government savings targets as excess capacity in juvenile custody was not cost-effective.
Concern raised after use of segregation doubles at YOI