18.Our evidence session on 24 January highlighted that governance structures in place at local, regional and national level did not prevent HMP Liverpool from declining between the 2015 and 2017 inspections. Mr Spurr told us that the Governor was primarily responsible for ensuring that an action plan put in place after the 2015 inspection was delivered, but added that “processes above establishment level for following through on how effectively that action plan was being implemented were not sufficiently robust.”
19.At the national level, it appears that HMPPS were not aware of how bad the conditions at HMP Liverpool were. Michael Spurr told the Committee that the HMPPS’ assessment of HMP Liverpool was “level 1” (the worst rating) but he conceded that the situation was worse than he had anticipated and that he “had not recognised the deterioration in conditions” prior to seeing the HMIP report.
20.At the regional level, it was not clear whether the Deputy Director of Custody (DDC), who sat above the Governor and had oversight of 12 prisons, was aware of the extent of the problems with HMP Liverpool. Mr Spurr assured the Committee that the DDC was taking action to resolve problems before the HMIP visit in 2017, particularly around the living conditions and accommodation, but he went on to state that “the action was not sufficient to have made a difference by the time the inspection came.” Mr Spurr told the Committee that regional oversight was “quite light” reflecting a 37% cut in expenditure above establishment level and that the DDC’s team was significantly reduced. We heard that HMPPS has taken action to “provide more capacity to oversee establishments by splitting the responsibilities and by reducing the span of control at each level above establishment”, recognising that the responsibilities on them were “too great for individuals to deal with”.
21.At the local level, prison managers had not taken enough action to prevent the deterioration of the prison. One of the key concerns raised by the HMIP report was that the prison had become unclean and while the report recognised that managers had had “alerted regional and national managers to the indecent conditions” and that the support they received was “inadequate”, it also states that “[p]rison managers had not taken all the actions that were within their control, such as ensuring that the prison was kept clean.” During the hearing, the new governor, Pia Sinha, told us that “cleanliness is definitely within our gift. There is no excuse for an unclean jail”.
22.We heard from Michael Spurr and from Pia Sinha that efforts are underway to address concerns at HMP Liverpool. Ms Sinha told us that she had “initiated a deep clean of all external areas” and that she had increased the number of prisoners cleaning, and increased the staff supervising cleaning from 1 to 3. We were aware that HMPPS had published an action plan on the same day as the inspection which accepts 55, and partially accepts a further 10 of the 72 HMIP recommendations, and lists specific actions against each accepted or partially accepted recommendation. During the hearing we heard that HMPPS have increased the number of operational staff, and that they had instituted a new offender management model. Mr Spurr told us that “The new governor has implemented new profiles and arrangements for staffing and resourcing to make the regime work more effectively” and he noted that “it should have been done earlier”.
23.National, regional and local management failed in their oversight of HMP Liverpool, and the evidence suggests that, in varying degrees, that failure was not limited to one establishment. We welcome actions taken at HMP Liverpool to try and improve the current situation and take reassurance from the publication of an action plan. We note, however, that the action plan put in place in HMP Liverpool in 2015 did not result in the improvements required. This time it is imperative that the Governor, with support from regional and national management, is able to deliver on her plans. We are concerned about the failings of oversight at HMP Liverpool and that it appears that regional and national management were unaware of the extent of the decline of the establishment. We welcome Michael Spurr’s comments about reducing the span of control at Director level in order to give them more capacity to oversee establishments. We are, however, surprised that this issue has not been identified and addressed before. We hope that this strengthens the “above establishment level” management, so that, in future, regional management (including the Deputy Director of Custody) are aware of issues; so that those issues are reported to HMPPS centrally; and so that it is clear what action is being taken. The Committee will keep the efficacy of changes under close review.
24.HMIP highlighted unacceptably low living conditions for prisoners at HMP Liverpool. The report cited broken windows in cells, piles of rubbish, and lavatories that were filthy, blocked and leaking. At HMP Liverpool maintenance is managed under a national contract with Amey which covers prisons in the North of England. At HMP Liverpool there was a backlog of 1,000 maintenance jobs at December 2016 which had grown to 2,000 by September 2017. Kevin Miller, Director of Facilities Management at Amey, told us that this was “not an acceptable situation”. We were told by Mr Spurr and Mr Miller that the backlog had resulted from rising vandalism and we heard that Amey had increased staff from 21, envisaged in the original contract, to 32 at the time of our session, and that they were recruiting a further 8 to cope with the work that was required. Mr Spurr told us that he was “not happy with performance on facilities management across the whole estate”. He went on to tell us that HMPPS need to reset the contract to consider the “reality” of the situation and put more resources towards “reactive maintenance”. Both Mr Spurr and Mr Miller confirmed to us that penalties had been levied against Amey and that they recognised the service “was not where it should be”.
25.We were not satisfied with the explanations we heard of the rising backlog of maintenance tasks, and we have concerns about how well the facilities management contract was working at HMP Liverpool. The performance of contractors in prisons has a direct effect on the conditions in which prisoners must live, and contractors are in receipt of large sums of public money. We believe that the systems for managing contractors and penalising poor performance are not sufficiently transparent. We recommend that major contracts are subject to a public framework which outlines expectations, performance and penalties levied against the provider. If contractors are penalised for poor performance there should be an annual public notification of where, why and by how much, as a percentage of the value of the contract.
26.One of the issues raised by the HMIP report and by witnesses during the hearing was that the decline in living conditions was so acute that some cells should not have been in use. Concerns were raised by the prison about the need to take cells out of use in summer 2016, but when the inspectors visited in September 2017 they found men living in cells which “were not fit for use and should have been decommissioned”. Mr Spurr told us that “we should have taken more cells out of use” and that “cells that should have been identified as being not fit for use were retained”. He also told us that “there were failures in local governance. There was a RAG rating system to identify the cells that were not fit for use. It had not been operated effectively during that period”. When the prison did take 50 cells out of use, they were returned to use shortly before the inspection, which Mr Spurr told us should not have happened.
27.Mr Spurr informed us that part of the reason that these cells were in use was that there was pressure on capacity across the estate following unexpected rises in the prison population over summer 2017. Mr Spurr went on to explain that concurrent with rises in the population, cells at HMP Haverigg had been taken out of use, and HMP Kennet had been closed, and while that “does not excuse using cells that we should not have had in use” and that “[HMPPS] did not say to anybody, ‘Use cells that should not be used’” that was the context within which decisions were made. We note that at the end of September71 of 116 prisons were over crowded (including HMP Liverpool) and between them they were holding 9,857 people more their certified normal accommodation. Mr Spurr also noted that there had been other challenges which the Governor of HMP Liverpool had needed to concentrate on at the time; in particular there had been an escape from the prison and the Governor had accordingly focused on security. We have requested further details about the reasons why these cells remained in use and may return to this issue in due course.
28.Commenting on living standards, the new Minister, Rory Stewart MP, told us that “[m]y instinct is that we need to get back to basics. We need to absolutely insist that we are going to run clean, decent prisons.” The Minister placed an emphasis on strong leadership, noting the new governor’s commitment to driving improvement in HMP Liverpool, and he stated that that “[i]n the end, it is a question of leadership.”
29.It should not have been the case that prisoners in HMP Liverpool were living in cells deemed not fit by the Inspectorate and we welcome the new Minister, Rory Stewart MP’s, commitment to a “back to basics” approach. While the Committee agrees with his sentiment, particularly when there is a prison in difficulty as was the case at Liverpool, we also note the need for a long-term, system wide response. We recommend that the Minister, the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS publish a plan to resolve the persistent overcrowding of the estate, so that governors do not feel pressure to house men or women in cells that are deemed unfit. It is clear that in order to be successful, such a plan must aim to reduce the prison population and / or increase safe and decent capacity, and we will return to this question.
30.HMIP raised serious concerns about the quality of, and access to, healthcare in the prison and representatives of NHS England acknowledged these concerns to us in the hearing. We took Evidence from Julie Dhuny, Head of Commissioning, Health and Justice, North Region, and from Kate Davies, Director of Health and Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Services Commissioning, both NHS England. We heard that delivering healthcare happens in partnership between the healthcare provider and the prison, and that there were failings by both parties at HMP Liverpool. For example, HMIP reported that prisoners were not able to attend their appointments because they were locked in their cells, and Kate Davies told the Committee that this was down to failings in “the systems within the prison officer and healthcare regime.” NHS England noted that they were commissioning healthcare at “probably the most challenging time in prisons” and they had struggled to recruit and retain staff.
31.Julie Dhuny told us that NHS England had commissioned a new health needs assessment of HMP Liverpool, and had set work in train to create an action plan. Both representatives of NHS England and the Governor told us that there had been efforts to work in partnership, including instituting a board to monitor improvement which was jointly chaired by Julie Dhuny from the healthcare side, and Pia Sinha from the prison side. Pia Sinha told us that work already undertaken had reduced the do not attend rate for healthcare form “the 40% mark” to “the 20% mark”. Kate Davies told us that a national level partnership agreement, between NHS England and HMPPS would be published in April 2018. We note that the last partnership agreement, which outlined respective responsibilities aligned to a shared set of objectives, was extended to April 2017 so one will not have been in place for 12 months at the point the new agreement is published.
32.We heard that there had been instability in healthcare provision at HMP Liverpool. In December 2014 NHS England ended the contract with the then provider owing to “significant concerns about the safety of the service” and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust won the contract to provide all services from June 2015. NHS England told the Committee that Lancashire Care will cease providing services from April 2018. NHS England stated that they are going through a “single tender action” for a new provider, which means they are working with one provider, rather than in a competitive process with several providers.
33.We welcome efforts by NHS England to improve the situation at Liverpool. It is clear to the Committee that delivering healthcare is not just about the healthcare provider, but also about the relationship between prisons and healthcare teams at local, regional and national level. We welcome the commitment from HMPPS and NHS England to publish the Partnership Agreement in April, so there is a clear commitment to working together to ensure that prisoners have access to decent healthcare. We request that the Ministry set out how it plans to ensure that gaps during which there is no formal working arrangement between justice and healthcare systems do not occur in future.
34.We are concerned about several issues highlighted by the inspection of HMP Liverpool. We take the view that these problems are symptomatic of wider failings across the prison estate which the Government should take extremely seriously. We are not convinced that existing plans to reorganise the way in which HMPPS operates above establishment level will be sufficient to improve conditions. We will continue to pay close attention to the Government’s plans to improve oversight of prisons, and we intend to play a part in ensuring that Ministers, officials and individual prisons are held to account when the Inspectorate identifies urgent and serious failings.
25 Q5, and Q32
30 , Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017), paragraph S23
33 HMP Liverpool. A response to the HMCIP Inspection Report. Published 19th January 2018. Page 9 para 1.
35 , Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017)
36 , Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017)
37 . 1st January - 31st December 2016. Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool
38 Q refs
40 Q61 and 62
41 , Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017)
49 , population bulleting, monthly September 2017
52 , Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017)
59 , Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (11–22 May 2015) paragraph 2.59
14 February 2018