9 Jul 2008

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, has expressed concern that today’s report into Hydebank Wood Young Offender’s Centre has shown evidence of gaps in child protection.

The Commissioner said the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons illustrated that there was no confirmation that proper child protection checks had been carried out on staff who work with children.

“I am extremely concerned that this report says too few staff had been trained in child protection and there was no evidence that protection of children and vulnerable adults (POCVA) checks had been carried out on all staff working with children,” said Ms Lewsley.

“Few of the staff involved in strip searching children and young people had been trained.”

The Commissioner said she did not condone any crime, but the aim of detention must be to make sure re-offending rates are reduced.

“Unfortunately the entire report paints a dreadful picture, and in some areas the treatment of children and young people has gotten worse since the last report. I have raised my concerns at a meeting with Prison’s Minister Paul Goggins yesterday.

“I want to make sure that the Centre’s aim, as well as making sure society is protected, is that when released the risk of a young person re-offending is reduced.

“That is why I am very concerned that 85 per cent of those surveyed did not know they had a resettlement plan.”

The Commissioner said she would be seeking an early visit to Hydebank Wood to meet the Governor andyoung people.

“This morning I have heard that progress has been made since this report has been completed,” said Ms Lewsley. “I want to see some evidence of this myself. 

“At some stage in the future the Northern Ireland Assembly may take over responsibility for this centre. Like myself, they will want to see how improvements are being made and young people, while being punished, are protected, and given a real chance to turn their lives around.”