North Staffordshire youth prison improves support for troubled teenagers on back of £4.9m Government scheme



A youth prison is putting dozens of its officers through degree-level training so they can offer better support to teenage offenders.

Werrington Young Offender Institute is part of a £4.9 million Government programme to create a network of youth justice specialists.

The officers are learning how to get inmates to open up about personal problems, which could be at the root of their criminal behaviour.

Jason Smith, who joined the Prison Service three years ago after a career in retail management, has already put his new skills to use with young people at Werrington.

The 27-year-old officer, who lives in the Stoke-on-Trent area, said: “A lot of the training is about child developmental psychology and how their upbringing can affect their lives.

“You build up a good working relationship with them and they talk to you about their specific needs. It is quite like counselling.

“I’ve got a wing of 44 lads, who I see daily. I’ve also got 10 lads who I see every week with custody support plans. You really get to know them as it’s more personal.

“They might flare up and get angry. But you can calm them down. I can definitely see that benefit.”

Many of the young offenders have been in care growing up or have suffered other traumas. They might also have failed at school and need a fresh approach to education.

If an inmate discloses any safeguarding issues, they will be referred to a specialist team. There is also input from healthcare.

Jason has completed two modules and is now well on the way to gaining his foundation degree in youth justice.

So far, 32 staff at the YOI have completed the qualification and 46 are working towards it. Eventually, 113 will take the foundation degree, which is delivered by Unitas and accredited by the University of Suffolk.

Governor Sonia Brooks said: “It’s recognising there are special skills to work with this age group. Children are very different from adults. They are still developing and they have different needs.”

Werrington holds up to 118 inmates, who are aged 15 to 17.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “The number of children in custody has halved in the last seven years, thanks to better early intervention.

“Those entering youth custody now have committed the most serious crimes, often have horrendous histories of suffering abuse and exploitation themselves, and can be extremely challenging to work with.

“This extra training ensures officers can better help children overcome these problems and go on to become law-abiding adults – breaking the cycle of reoffending for future generations.”





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