Council leaders urge action after tragedy warning

By William Eichler | 22 September 2017

Council leaders have called on the Government to take action after inspectors said conditions in youth offending facilities were so bad they made a future tragedy ‘inevitable’.

Although councils have a statutory responsibility to protect children, their ability to intervene once young offenders are in custody is limited.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has urged Whitehall to produce clear plans outlining how youth offending facilities will be made safe for children in the future.

Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Cllr Richard Watts, said: ‘Any local authority found to be running institutions where tragedy is inevitable - to use the chief inspector’s recent description of the secure estate – would, quite rightly, be under intense pressure and would, at the very least, be required to produce a plan with clear timescales for action to ensure that improvements are made quickly and children are kept safe.

‘Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) were made aware of these issues in July, yet we still have no clear idea of what action will be taken, and by when, to rectify the situation and make sure our young people are safe in custody.

‘With inspectors also noting that the majority of previous recommendations relating to safety, respect, activity and resettlement had not been implemented, we can have little confidence that this latest report will be any different without a clear action plan in place.

‘This situation would not be acceptable for local authorities, schools or any other public institution charged with the care of children and it should not be acceptable for HMPPS. ‘Action needs to be taken to ensure that young people are safe in custody.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘The safety and welfare of every young person in custody is our absolute priority and we are clear that more needs to be done to achieve this.’

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