Abuse claims training centre to start taking young offenders again


Some young offenders are to be sent to a scandal-hit youth prison at the centre of allegations of abuse and mistreatment.

The Youth Justice Board stopped placing youngsters at the Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester, Kent, in the wake of a damning BBC Panorama expose.

Undercover footage at the G4S-run centre allegedly showed staff mistreating and abusing young inmates, and boasting about using inappropriate techniques to restrain children.

Other allegations included claims that staff tried to hide their actions by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them.

But, following independent visits, including by Ofsted and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Youth Justice Board has decided to resume placing some young people at Medway, the Press Association can reveal.

It is understood that none of the agencies which have been into Medway since the Panorama investigation have raised any safeguarding concerns.

Increased monitoring by the YJB has also not uncovered new evidence of mistreatment by staff at the unit, which houses youngsters aged 12 to 17.

The Youth Justice Board confirmed that some young people would be placed at Medway STC on a "case-by-case basis" in consultation with their relatives and the Youth Offending Team (YOT).

However, full normal placements will not resume as the Medway Improvement Board is still considering its findings. It is due to report at the end of the month.

Youth Justice Board chief executive Lin Hinnigan said: "We have taken the decision to begin placing some individual children remanded or sentenced to custody into Medway STC.

"We will do this in consultation with the YOT and the family of the young person, on an individual basis and only where we believe that this is in the best interests of that young person.

"Once the Medway Improvement Board has reported its findings, the YJB will consider all its recommendations and take any actions required."

Since the Panorama broadcast, five men have been arrested by Kent Police on suspicion of either child neglect or assault. All have been bailed to next month.

Last month, G4S announced that it was selling its UK children's services business, which includes 13 children's homes and two STCs - Medway and Oakhill in Milton Keynes.

G4S said the disposal was part of a "continuing review of our business portfolio" as it seeks to "improve the strategic focus" of the organisation.

G4S also has a contract to run Rainsbrook STC in Northamptonshire, which is currently being transferred to a new provider, MTC Novo.

Ms Hinnigan said the YJB was limiting placements at Rainsbrook to allow staff to prepare for the changes. MTC Novo will take over the running from May.

Paul Cook, managing director of G4S children's services, said: "We have been working hard to review every aspect of our recruitment, training, reporting and governance processes to address the issues identified at Medway Secure Training Centre earlier this year and it is encouraging that the Youth Justice Board will start to place young people at the centre once again.

"Since January, we have accelerated the planned roll-out of body-worn video cameras, all staff have been retrained by a national team on minimising and managing physical restraint and we have continued to support the ongoing work of the Ministry of Justice's Independent Improvement Board.

"A range of agencies has visited and inspected Medway, including an Ofsted team and the Children's Commissioner, and YJB monitors and children's charity Barnardo's have also increased their monitoring and advocacy services.

"While G4S recently announced its intention to exit children's services, including at Medway, we remain committed to the welfare of young people at the centre and responding to the serious issues raised at the beginning of the year."