Safer Custody and Safer Education

In the last 12 months I have worked on 18 legal cases concerning challenging behaviour in custody and schools, where either staff or the service users have been injured. Some died. All 18 cases contain an allegation for failures under the Health & Safety at Work Act for failures with assessment of risk and suitable and sufficient control measures to eliminate or minimise that risk.

The principles of Safer Custody, the national standard for the criminal justice system, also apply to the education and care sectors for dealing with challenging people such as:

  • Staff training
  • Safe staffing levels
  • Paperwork - assessment of risk and records of incidents
  • Building issues - adaptations required to prevent injury or escape
  • Gathering information whilst complying with Data Protection
  • Intervention and restraint techniques
  • Healthcare and medication needs
  • Medication management
  • Health, safety and well-being
  • Use of technology
  • Equality and person centred care

The majority of my work is within the custody and education sectors yet there are distinct differences for national standards. The hierarchy of the custody system is complex yet there are common national frameworks and occupational standards for all staff to comply with. In the education system the common frameworks and standards are absent with all schools being able to decide what level of knowledge and skill their staff obtain. Numerous training companies provide different systems of intervention. 

A 'one size fits all' approach fails to take into consideration every staff member and child's unique capabilities and circumstances and with an aging population within all work places trainers should have the expertise to adapt techniques there and then to fit with the staff member and the child in question. That trainer should be qualified sufficiently to be able to be in the witness box, in a court of law, and explain the legal, medical and therapeutic issues behind the adaptation. Adaptations by a trainer who is not qualified to do so could be dangerous and could leave the work place open to negligence allegations. 

It is essential that all workplaces commissioning training conduct their due diligence assessments of the trainer and the training. Just because a method has always been that way does not mean that it is currently suitable and sufficient for the current needs and risks. Safe and effective care is a safeguarding issue for staff and service users.