1.On 29 March, we published our Report on Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre,1 raising serious concerns about the treatment of children there. We recommended, among other things, that if no substantial improvement in that treatment became apparent, the Ministry of Justice should consider taking Rainsbrook back in-house rather than continuing to contract out its operation to MTC. We also made clear our misgivings about MTC’s ability to run the centre after a series of negative inspection reports by Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission. We seriously doubted MTC’s commitment to achieve the substantial change in service required to care for the 12 to 17-year old children in the centre.
2.On 16 June, the Ministry of Justice announced that all children would be removed from Rainsbrook amid ‘serious ongoing concerns about safety and performance’, following a further Ofsted inspection. The Lord Chancellor, rt hon. Robert Buckland QC MP, announced:
Six months ago, I demanded that MTC take immediate action to fix the very serious failings at Rainsbrook. They have failed to deliver and I have been left with no choice but to ask that all children are moved elsewhere as soon as possible. This move will help protect the public by ensuring often vulnerable children get the support they need to turn their lives around–ultimately resulting in fewer victims and safer streets.2
3.We welcome the Lord Chancellor’s decision to remove all children from Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre for their safety and wellbeing and to seek an alternative use for the centre. As our March Report made clear, a litany of inaction by MTC, poor oversight of its contractual relationship by the Ministry of Justice and a series of action plans not worth the paper they were written on left children vulnerable and unsafe. Those children have committed serious crimes; in a civilised society, however, they deserve much better from those contracted to care for them.
4.Between our Report and this week’s announcement, the Government provided us, on 13 May, a response to our March report. We considered that response on 25 May and found it inadequate to the concerns we had identified and raised. The response failed to address seriously the recommendations we had made and did not provide sufficient or adequate detail to reassure us that changes were being implemented in good time. We therefore agreed, unusually, not to publish that response, but to seek fuller answers to the questions we had asked and recommendations we had made. Given the change in circumstances, we today publish that response as an appendix to this Report, but we also take the opportunity here to repeat questions as yet unanswered about what went wrong at Rainsbrook.
5.We seek, in particular, an explanation from the Ministry of why MTC was, early in 2020, granted a two-year extension to its contract to run Rainsbrook when considerable concern had already been raised about the company’s capacity to do so. We also asked what ministerial involvement there had been in the decision to grant that extension. The response with which we were provided states:
HMG approvals and departmental spending were agreed for an overall seven-year period: a five-year contract with a pre-determined option to extend by a further two years. In making the decision, performance data was also considered and the site was not showing significant failings in October 2019. The decision to activate the two-year extension was internally approved in November 2019 and formally notified to MTC in February 2020.3
6.We were told in oral evidence that two improvements notices had been given and financial penalties were, in fact, imposed on MTC for failings at Rainsbrook with one financial penalty in place since May 2019. Were those improvement notices and financial sanctions taken into account when it was decided to extend the contract? How does the Ministry define “significant failings”?
7.The response appears to imply that no Minister was involved in signing off the two-year extension. Is that so? If it is, why was there no ministerial involvement? What steps will be taken to involve Ministers in such decisions in future when questions have been raised about a contractor? The Ministry should explain what “internally approved” means, setting out clearly who took the decision to extend the contract.
8.The extended contract gave MTC until May 2023 to operate Rainsbrook. We invite the Ministry to set out, in detail and including specific figures, what the additional cost was of extending the contract and what, if any, termination costs may now apply. The Ministry should also make clear as soon as possible what the future use of Rainsbrook will be and what is intended to be the Ministry’s future relationship with MTC.
9.The Government expects to respond to Select Committee Reports within two months normally. As our original Report was published in early March and significant work should already have been done to respond to it, we would hope that it might respond to this one within two weeks.
1 Justice Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2019–21, Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, HC 1266.
2 “Lord Chancellor takes immediate action to move children from Rainsbrook”, Ministry of Justice Press Release, 16 June 2021.
3 See Appendix of this report: “Government Response to the Justice Committee’s Seventeenth Reports of Session 2019–2021: Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre”.
Published: 24 June 2021 Site information Accessibility statement