HC Deb 08 June 2004 vol 422 cc327-9W
Vera Baird

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners at New Hall women's prison were on suicide watch during each of the last three months. [172653]

Paul Goggins

"Suicide watch' is not a term used by the Prison Service. The level of observation for any individual prisoner identified to be at risk of suicide or self-harm can vary and is decided by a multi-disciplinary case review team, or by the unit manager when there has not been the opportunity for the case review to be held.

The inherent vulnerability of many women in custody, combined with the high levels of self-harm across women's prisons, results in a very large number of women prisoners presenting themselves as requiring special care, and being made subject to the "Self-Harm At Risk Form' F2052SH procedures. Staff caring for women prisoners face exceptional difficulties in distinguishing between those women who are intensely vulnerable and those who may be actively suicidal.

The number of new F2052SHs opened, and the number of prisoners on an open F2052SH at New Hall during each of the last three months is shown in the following table:

Month Number of new F2052SHs opened1
Number of women on an open F2052SH2
February 48 97
March 54 92
April 64 100
Total 166 289
1 These figures include women transferred into New Hall on open F2052SHs.
2 These figures include newly opened F2052SHs and F2052SHs remaining open from the previous month.

The number of apparently self-inflicted deaths at New Hall in each of the past three years is shown in the following table.

Calendar year Number of self-inflicted deaths
2001 0
2002 2
2003 3

In 2004 to date (11 May 2004), New Hall has experienced one apparently self-inflicted death.

The number of reported incidents of self-harm that occurred in each of the last three months at New Hall, and the number of women involved, is shown in the following table.

Month Number of reported incidents of self-harm Number of prisoners involved
February 131 28
March 94 28
April 39 20
Total 264 76

The number of self-inflicted deaths and level of self-harm among women prisoners is recognised as a very serious concern by the Prison Service and Ministers. The main principles of the outline suicide prevention strategy that I announced on 31 March 2004 apply across all types of prisons and to all prisoners, whether male or female. Women prisoners are to benefit from a specifically targeted and separate suicide prevention and self-harm management strategy being developed for them. This builds upon a number of interventions including: individual crisis counselling for women prisoners who self-harm; the continued development and evaluation of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, which is currently being trialled at Durham, Bullwood Hall and Holloway prisons; investment and planning to ensure progress on the detoxification strategy in women's prisons; and the introduction of a new training pack for all staff working with women in custody, which includes a module on the health and well being of women prisoners. £1 million from the Department of Health has been allocated to women's prisons to be spent on the recruitment of psychiatric nurses.

New Hall itself has a comprehensive local suicide and self-harm prevention policy which is reviewed annually, and an active suicide and self-harm prevention team. A full-time Suicide Prevention Coordinator and recently appointed Safer Custody Manager are leading improvements to the existing suicide prevention and other safer custody arrangements. It is intended that an open, less institutionalised environment will allow better interaction between staff and prisoners, and the provision of a dedicated interview room will facilitate more open discussion between prisoners and staff, which may, in turn, lead to easier identification of at-risk prisoners.

Vera Baird

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what liaison took place between New Hall women's prison and the local area child protection committee about the welfare of girls under 18 in custody in(a) 2003 and (b) 2004. [172654]

Paul Goggins

During 2003 work began with Wakefield Social Services to develop child protection procedures for New Hall, these cover all child protection issues in the establishment including all individuals under the age of 18 and classified as juveniles, as well as mothers and babies.

Over the last nine months, the Governor of New Hall prison has, attended the area child protection committee (ACPC) meetings on a regular basis. The ACPC has now agreed the Child Protection procedures. There is also regular liaison with the initial response team about any concerns that the establishment has for any young person under 18, as well as any baby held within New Hall.

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