Care centre for young criminals 'out of control': 'Stressed staff use excessive restraint'

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A TREATMENT centre for some of Britain's most dangerous and severely disturbed young people is in crisis and out of control, government inspectors have concluded in a damning report published yesterday.

The strongest criticism is reserved for discipline at Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre, in Birmingham, attended almost daily by the fire brigade and police. Staff were said to rely too much on physical restraint.

Inspectors said the 40-bed centre, one of two in Britain, suffered from high levels of sickness, demoralised staff and disjointed management. It was said to be 'in crisis, with staff under constant stress . . . barely managing to maintain control'.

Glenthorpe, along with the 30-bed St Charles Centre in Brentwood, Essex, provides care and treatment for the most serious juvenile criminals at a weekly cost of pounds 2,700 per person. Up to 80 per cent of places are for young people aged between 10 and 17 convicted of offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and arson.

Last year, inspectors concluded that conditions at the two high security centres had barely improved despite damning reports over the past five years. This year the Social Service Inspectorate was far less critical of the St Charles Centre, but said the psychiatric service at both units was under 'considerable strain'.

The report - which makes 72 recommendations - calls for for a national strategy to ensure appropriate care for damaged and dangerous children.

John Bowis, the health minister, said he was 'concerned' at the weaknesses identified.

Yesterday's report is published at the same time as the second annual report of the secretary of state's Youth Treatment Service Group, which makes wide-ranging calls for changes to management, staffing levels, health care, education, discipline and safety. at the centres.

Mr Bowis said he had accepted in full the recommendation of both reports which will be implemented by the chief executive of the YTS.