Press release

Urgent action to overhaul HMYOI Cookham Wood

Prisons Minister Damian Hinds has today (26 May 2023) outlined a package of urgent measures to improve safety and rehabilitation at HMYOI Cookham Wood, including additional staff being deployed and a major crackdown on weapons.

  • crackdown on weapons through new intelligence taskforce to tackle violence
  • increased access to education, skills and conflict resolution workshops
  • expert teams brought in to train staff and drive improvement

Today’s news forms part of the government’s response to His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) report last month, after it identified serious failings at the Young Offender Institution resulting in an Urgent Notification.

As part of the Urgent Notification process Ministers have 28 days to respond to the notice and set out how they will make the rapid change needed.

In just 4 weeks significant improvements are already underway, including:

  • Expert teams have been deployed to train staff and improve the care provided to children, ensuring they are rehabilitated, educated, and leave custody with better prospects than when they entered it.
  • A crackdown on weapons will see a dedicated searching team with dogs brought in to seize items fuelling violence in custody.
  • A new intelligence taskforce will also root out and deter children from carrying weapons.
  • The number of young people being kept apart has already reduced, helping avoid any harmful impact on their education and rehabilitation.
  • An improvement notice has been issued to Cookham Wood’s outsourced education provider, requiring them to develop an action plan to resolve issues preventing children in custody from receiving a quality education

In response to staffing pressures, HMYOI Cookham Wood is now receiving dedicated support from HMPPS to unlock additional resources and improve the retention and recruitment of staff.

The action plan published today also details how ministers will continue to build upon these improvements and hold the YOI to account over the coming weeks and months.

Prisons Minister Damian Hinds said:

Last month’s inspection found unacceptable failings at HMYOI Cookham Wood, and today I am setting out how we will put this right without delay.

Children should feel safe in custody and leave in a better state than when they entered it. These measures to tackle gang violence and improve education will make sure we can rehabilitate these children and reduce their risk of reoffending.

The government introduced the Urgent Notification process in 2017 to ensure immediate, urgent action was taken when necessary to address serious concerns identified by inspectors.

Published 26 May 2023
Last updated 26 May 2023 + show all updates
  1. First published.