In January 2016, BBC Panorama revealed serious mistreatment of children at the G4S run Medway Secure Training Centre custody(STC). In response, the Secretary of State for Justice created an Independent Improvement Board for Medway to: establish whether it was safe to continue to place children in custody in the STC; scrutinise the robustness of plans put in place by both G4S and the Youth Justice Board; and, to put forward any wider learning for the youth justice system.
In May 2016, the Board reported its findings and made a number of recommendations:
- There was a lack of clarity on the purpose of an STC and that leadership within the STC had driven a culture that was based on control and contract compliance rather than rehabilitation and safeguarding of vulnerable children and young people;
- Safeguarding measures were insufficient and outdated with not enough on the best interests and mental wellbeing of the children in custody;
- A clearer child-based vision needed to be driven by strong leadership and an independent Governing Body to provide overall oversight and to scrutinise arrangements for safeguarding.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Justice, accepted the Board’s recommendations and announced that individual STCs would have new governing bodies who will scrutinise and support those running each STC – similar to the type of oversight and support in schools. He said he was establishing a Youth Custody Improvement Board to work across the youth secure estate, to help make sure that children are safe and to improve standards of behaviour management in each STC and Young Offender Institution. Looking forward, he said that when the final report of Charlie Taylor’s review of youth justice is published “I hope we will be able to move swiftly to a model which ensures that the educational mission of these establishments is central to their existence.”
The Report of the Medway Improvement Board and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) response to the recommendations can be found here.