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Youth Custody Estate: Safety

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2021

The number of children and young people in custody is at a historically low level, falling from around 2,600 in 2008-09 to 515 at the end of October 2021. Although welcome, this has resulted in a concentrated cohort of children with particularly complex needs. Fifty-five per cent. of children in custody last year had been sentenced for violent offences. We are clear that levels of violence within the youth estate are too high, which is why we are taking a number of measures to reduce it.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but the reality is that youth offenders institutions and secure training centres are not safe places for children. Two have closed after children there suffered significant harm. At the two remaining institutions, violent assault on children has reached 70%, resulting in admissions to accident and emergency. Children are locked in their dilapidated cells for up to 22 hours per day. Ofsted described one institution as barely meeting

“minimum standards of human decency”.

This is state-supported and state-sanctioned child abuse. Why has he not put a stop to it yet?

We do acknowledge the problems within the secure estate, although I hope the hon. Lady will also acknowledge the difficulties faced in handling the remaining cohort of young people. We have put in place steps to try to improve the situation—for example, allocating a member of staff to every child to support them with weekly therapeutic interventions. I know that, as one of her first acts on getting the job as Prisons Minister, the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), engaged with a number of providers in the secure institutions to outline to them that their performance was not acceptable.