HM YOI Wetherby Keppel unit – high standards of care in a well-run facility

The Keppel Unit at HMYOI Wetherby was extremely well run and provided a model for other specialist units for young people, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the special unit at the young offender institution in West Yorkshire.

HMYOI Wetherby’s Keppel Unit, which opened in 2008, is designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in the country whose needs cannot be met in the mainstream prison system. It is the only unit of its kind in the secure estate. This was its third inspection. Each time inspectors have reported positively about the conditions and the way young people were being treated. On this inspection, inspectors found that the positive culture and work practices had developed to a higher level and now provided a model of how a specialist unit should be run.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • high quality care was delivered in an environment where young people had the chance to settle and the opportunity to thrive;
  • all young people had an up-to-date care plan which ensured that their needs were under constant review;
  • levels of self-harm remained a concern but those at risk were well supported;
  • relationships between staff and young people were very good and staff intervened quickly to prevent bullying and fights from escalating;
  • leadership of the unit was strong and consistent, helping staff from different disciplines to work well as a team;
  • the unit was well designed, which helped to create a calm atmosphere;
  • the education department offered a supportive environment and poor behaviour was dealt with effectively;
  • time out of cell was adequate and young people had regular time in the open air; and
  • progress had been made in co-ordinating resettlement work and there was now greater involvement by external partners in safeguarding and child protection arrangements.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • removal from the unit was still used as a punishment and routine strip searching still took place with force sometimes used to gain compliance; and
  • many young people struggled to maintain regular contact with their families, a key element of support working towards and on release, due to the distance they were held from home.

Nick Hardwick said:

“In the five years since its inception a positive ethos has been established and sustained within the Keppel unit and good work practices have become embedded. Despite their vulnerability, young people were provided with a high standard of care within a well-run facility. Our findings reflect the positive reaction from most young people and overall, the outcomes available were having a constructive and positive influence on some otherwise difficult young people. The secure estate has much to learn from the positive way the Keppel unit has been developed over recent years.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the excellent work being undertaken at the Keppel Unit.
“Staff look after some very challenging young people with highly complex needs, and the care they provide is outstanding. They can be very proud of this very positive report.”

Notes to editors

  1. Read the report
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. This unannounced inspection was carried out from12–23 August 2013.
  4. The Keppel Unit at HMYOI Wetherby provides secure accommodation for young people aged 15-18 who need additional care and support and who are unsuitable for placement on normal location. It is a national resource accommodating up to 48 young people.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.