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
    rates.

    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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