An announced inspection of Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre

Publication: 28/09/22
Front Cover of Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre Inspection
High care standards at Woodlands JJC but more collaboration with Lakewood Secure Care Centre needed

A new inspection by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) of Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre (Woodlands JJC) has praised the high standards of care and child-centred focus staff provided to children.
The inspection incorporated on-site fieldwork at Woodlands JJC by an Inspection Team from CJI, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).
“This inspection looked at how children brought to Woodlands JJC by the police as a place of safety, on remand or after being sentenced to custody by a court were treated. We also looked at the conditions in which they were held when in custody and assessed outcomes against the four areas of safety, care, purposeful activity and resettlement,” said Jacqui Durkin, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“While a very small number of children need to be detained in a secure custodial setting, children held at Woodlands JJC are among the most complex and challenging in our community and require intensive support and interventions to keep them safe and out of the criminal justice system in the future.
“As part of our work, Inspectors spoke to children held at Woodlands JJC about their care and experience in custody and observed how they were treated.  We also spoke to managers and staff, including those providing health and education services,” said Ms Durkin. 
Inspectors found children were well cared for and felt well cared for by staff.  Relationships between staff and young people were positive and particularly good with assigned key workers.  Young people were encouraged to participate in life at Woodlands JJC and to take responsibility for their behaviour.
“We also found children were held safely. Good admission and induction procedures were in place and there were robust safeguarding measures and support for those at risk of self-harm.  Child sexual exploitation screening was also well embedded at Woodlands JJC,” said the Chief Inspector.
Ms Durkin welcomed the progress that had been made since the last full inspection was published, particularly the improvements in the planning and delivery of education, learning and skills.
However the Chief Inspector expressed her concern that the opportunity to create a regional care and justice campus through the merging of Woodlands JJC with Lakewood Secure Care Centre (Lakewood) was not being taken forward now, with a shared services model being progressed instead.
“This is disappointing particularly given the uncertainty over budgets and pressures on social worker resources,” said Ms Durkin, reflecting that while effective detention services for a small and potentially further reducing number of children were needed, Woodlands JJC was staffed for 36 children but had an average daily population of 11 in 2020-21.

“With a staff team of 97, excluding teaching, health care and other service providers and average costs of £829,988 for each daily occupant in 2020-21, it is difficult to justify current operating model,” she said.
The Chief Inspector continued: “There is a need for greater collaboration moving forward and Inspectors have recommended that within the next 12 months, the current operating model at Woodlands JJC should be critically reviewed to take account of the decision of the Ministers of Health and Justice on the future of the joint regional care and justice campus. 
“In addition, within the next three months the Acting Director of Woodlands should identify and agree opportunities for Woodlands JJC staff to collaborate more closely with their counterparts in Lakewood, which will be essential for the successful implementation of any new shared services model,” said Ms Durkin.
The Chief Inspector expressed her concern that Woodlands JJC continued too often to be used as a place of safety, especially for children held under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, because there were no available alternatives.
Ms Durkin said that some sample records relating to the use of force examined by Inspectors revealed some information, such as evidence of support provide to young people after incidents of restraint, was lacking or had not been recorded.
“We recommend that steps be taken at Woodlands JJC to review and improve the governance of the use of single separation - where young people are separated from their peers - to provide assurance and evidence that its use is proportionate, and that it is only used as a last resort after other alternative have been considered, and for the shortest possible time,” she said.
Inspectors also recommended that steps be taken to further improve the management and administration of controlled drugs and the governance and availability of prescription and other medicines.
Recommendations have also been made to Woodlands JJC management to improve care planning and further support staff through training to ensure the care needs of each young person was being met. Inspectors also recommended that management, identify learning from its approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and take additional steps to champion equality and diversity.
Ms Durkin concluded: “Children at Woodlands JJC tend to have complex needs that the criminal justice system cannot meet alone, with many young people having spent time in care and moving between Woodlands and Lakewood.
“This underpins the need for greater collaboration and the use of the collective infrastructure and staff resources at a time of budgetary pressure, to deliver better outcomes - and the optimum service model - envisaged for Northern Ireland’s most challenging children, to help them to stop offending and fulfill their potential,” said the Chief Inspector.