This is the fourth edition of our Expectations for children in custody – the criteria we use during our inspections to assess the treatment of children and the conditions in prisons in which they are held.

We have retained four healthy prison tests, but in recognition of the particular needs of children our previous ’respect’ test has been renamed ‘care’. In line with our approach in other sectors we are publishing Expectations exclusively online and we hope that this more interactive and user-friendly format will increase its utility to those working in places of detention.

These Expectations were drawn up after extensive consultation and are based on and referenced against international and regional human rights standards. This edition aims to bring Expectations up to date so that we can continue to fulfil our responsibility to deliver independent and objective assessments of outcomes for children. This focus is in accordance with the UK’s responsibilities as signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

The Expectations reflect that those to whom they apply are children first, and the standards we expect of their treatment should take into account their vulnerability and the care due to any child. Each expectation area is presented alongside short summaries of the relevant human rights standards.

It is because of the inherent vulnerability of all children that our Expectations for children remain more specific and demanding than those for other detainees and I sincerely hope that they support establishments in improving outcomes for children in their care.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

Chief Inspector of Prisons

November 2018



Expectations is available in PDF (367 kB) and Word (548 kB).

Please note, the expectations for Education, Skills and Work have been revised to incorporate Ofsted’s new inspection framework. This joint letter (156 kB) from HMI Prisons and Ofsted confirms that we began using them on 1 February 2020.