Ofsted is to review the use of restraint against young people in secure training centres as part of a wider consultation on the institutions.
The consultation document, published today, sets out plans for a new joint inspection framework between Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Prisons Inspectorate (HMIP), supported by the Care Quality Commission.
It is expected to be more robust than current arrangements, making it harder for secure training centres (STCs) to be rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
Under the plans, physical restraint is only ever to be used as a last resort. This must be for the protection of young people or staff, and it must be used for the minimum time necessary and by trained officers using approved techniques.
There will also be a stronger focus on children’s safety, health, well being and education, as well as on behaviour management and the effectiveness of resettlement planning. Inspectors will also examine the standards of care for young people at risk of self-harm or suicide.
Wherever possible, young people will be asked for their views. This will include following up with those who have been released.
The consultation – which will run for 12 weeks, from today – follows the recommendations of the 2008 independent review of restraint in the secure estate.
The review was ordered following the high-profile deaths of several teenagers in STCs where controversial restraint techniques had been used.
John Goldup, Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector, urged everybody “with an interest in the care and rehabilitation of young people” to respond to the consultation.
He said the development of a joint framework “will ensure inspection focuses on improving outcomes for young people”.
“The new framework will have a rigorous focus on ensuring that the safeguarding and welfare of young people is safeguarded and promoted,” he said.
Sue Kent, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said: “It is vital that Ofsted explores the reasons why there have never been fatalities of young people in secure children’s homes – which are firmly underpinned by a therapeutic philosophy.”
Therapeutic services need to be widely available to young people in STCs and there must be a greater focus on young people’s mental health, she said.
It is also vital to consider the staff in such settings, she said. “Their professional background, experience, qualifications and skills – as well as issues around staff turnover rates, vacancies, sickness rates, ratio of staff to young people and, of course, restraint training.”
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