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Young Offenders

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what academic and vocational education and training is available to young people serving custodial sentences. [141865]

Paul Goggins: The Government is investing £40 million over three years through the Youth Justice Board to provide a range of academic and vocational training opportunities for juvenile offenders. The specification for learning and skills being implemented includes programmes that allow young people to:

There is a target for 90 per cent of juvenile offenders to engage in full-time education, training or employment by the end of 2004.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what health services and support are available to young people (a) sentenced and (b) remanded to custody; and what specialist mental health services are available to repeat young offenders. [141866]

Paul Goggins: Young people held in prison custody, whether on remand or sentenced, have access to a full range of primary and specialist healthcare services through the institution's healthcare centre. Health care staff will arrange for any necessary specialist treatment to be provided, either within the institution or as an in-or-out patient at an outside hospital, as appropriate. A substantial programme of reform of prison health care, begun in 2000 on the basis of a partnership between the Prison Service and the NHS, is due to lead to the full devolution of prison health resources to NHS Primary Care Trusts by the end of March 2006.

Young offenders who need in-patient treatment for mental disorder may be transferred to psychiatric hospitals.

As part of the programme to implement the commitments to improved mental health services for prisoners in the NHS Plan (2000), the NHS is funding provision of multi-disciplinary mental health in-reach services at 94 prisons and young offender institutions during 2003–4. By 2006 such services will be available to all prison establishments.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) assaults and (b) instances of criminal damage there were in HM Young Offenders Institution Wetherby in each of the past five years. [140587]

Paul Goggins: The numbers of assaults in the establishment for each of the last five years, with numbers of serious assaults 1 shown in brackets, are:

Number of assaultsNumber of serious assaults
April 1999 to March 2000145(4)
April 2000 to March 2001135(4)
April 2001 to March 2002117(10)
April 2002 to March 2003129(5)
April 2003 to October 200379(2)

(18) 'Serious assault' is defined as an assault on any person, including fights (if resulting in detention in outside hospital as an in-patient, medical treatment for concussion or internal injury, fractures, scalds and burns, stabbing, crushing, extensive or multiple bruising, black eye, broken nose, lost or broken tooth, cuts requiring suturing, bites, temporary or permanent blindness or sexual assaults).

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Information about incidents of criminal damage is not recorded centrally for the Prison Service estate as a whole. However, since April 2003 there has been central recording by Prison Service juvenile group of incidents of significant damage 1 to the fabric of cells within the Prison Service juvenile estate. From April to October 2003 there were 64 such incidents at Wetherby.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many sick days were taken by staff at HM Young Offenders Institution Wetherby in each of the past five years. [140589]

Paul Goggins: Information on staff sickness absence at Wetherby young offender institution is contained in the following table. Reliable data are not available prior to April 1999.

Working days lostWorking days lost per person
April to September 2003(19)2,43116.7

(19) April to September 2003 rate has been annualised.

The overall sick absence rate across the Prison Service has fallen this year and currently stands at 13.3 working days per member of staff per year. The Director General is committed to reducing this level further. At Wetherby, the increase in absence since 2001–02 was due in particular to a rise in long-term sickness absence.

However, I understand that there has been a significant reduction in such cases this year. In addition, a six-month pilot project has recently begun at Wetherby to provide a counselling and support service to staff to address issues associated with stress. It is too early to assess the impact of this project.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the reasons are for (a) the removal of staff batons and (b) the proposed removal of staff uniforms at HM Young Offenders Institution Wetherby. [140590]

Paul Goggins: The policy on the use of staves and mini-batons is set out in Prison Service Order 1600. Female staff who have been trained in its use may be issued with a mini-baton, and this applies at juvenile establishments and units, including Wetherby. In line with the policy relating to juvenile establishments and units, staff at Wetherby have been required to follow the practice of not carrying staves within the establishment.

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In June 2003, after seeking clarification of the policy from Prison Service headquarters, the Governor ended the practice of issuing staff with staves when escorting young people outside the establishment.

Staff in the operational support and prison officer grades at Wetherby continue to wear the traditional

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Prison Service uniform. Prison Service Order 4950 sets out a requirement for a less formal uniform for staff. Consultations on the implementation of this aspect of the Order are taking place at a national level. The Prison Service remains committed to implementing a uniform that is appropriate for use in juvenile establishments.