Justice Secretary Michael Gove has this morning U-turned on his stance to allow G4S to continue running the Medway Youth Detention Centre whilst a new management company is being found to replace the now infamous security group. Gove has announced that G4S will now not be given a new contract to run the centre during the changeover.

Medway, a detention centre for young people blighted by serious allegations of child abuse and violence was to continue being run by G4S, the company responsible for the management of the centre, until a new management company could be found, but a report published today strongly urges the government to terminate G4S’s contract and set up an independent governing body.

The report notes several serious concerns, which go to the heart of the culture inside the youth justice system, how young people are treated and the current strategies in place for the centre’s management.

The Board tasked with investigating allegations of physical and emotional abuse at Medway STC discovered several alarming problems:

  • A lack of clarity on the purpose and leadership of a Secure Training Centre (STC) driven by a culture based in control and contract compliance rather than the rehabilitation and safeguarding of vulnerable young people
  • The Board felt that this culture may be leading to unethical behaviours, like the falsification of reports as seen in the Panorama broadcast
  • Accountability and management appeared to be highly ambiguous
  • There needed to be a clearer child based vision driven by strong leadership
  • STC’s needed to provide a safe and nurturing environment
  • Current safeguarding measures are insufficient and outdated
  • There was not enough emphasis on the best interests and mental wellbeing of trainees and; 
  • The Youth Justice Board had not done enough to change current policies, and practices needed to be reviewed
  • The Board felt there was a lack of coordination amongst the various safeguarding organisations at Medway STC, which increased the risk of safeguarding issues falling through the gap
  • These findings support the need for an independent governing body
  • Policies which form part of the STC contract needed to be reviewed to ensure the safety of young people, rather than focus on penalties
  • There needed to be an effective support framework for whistleblowers and children inside the STC so they can feel safe to raise concerns
  • The Board noted a wide range of responses to similar behaviours which was concerning and a lack of understanding of the causes and drivers of behavioural problems
  •  The Board also felt there needed to be a wider review of behaviour management
    policy and practice in STCs, across the wider youth justice system and across other sectors, in order to develop a coherent and consistent policy on risk, restraint and behaviour management across government.
  • The Board did not feel G4S’s Improvement Plan went far enough and remain concerned about the culture inside the system.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) will now take over the running of Medway in the short term and has been asked to work closely with the Youth Justice Board on the enhanced monitoring arrangements that will be put in place. Beverley Bevan – who the press release tells us is an experienced prison governor with seven years’ experience of working with young offenders, will be appointed as the Governor at that time.

As strong opponents of G4S remaining at Medway in this interim period we’re glad to see this shift in thinking and we hope NOMS will look to improving the care of young people inside Medway during their term. We still think the government should be looking to more holistic models for the youth justice system, like Spain’s excellent Diagrama programme.