‘The Development of Secure Units in Child Care’ by G J Blumenthal

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 Digest by Robert Shaw, davidlane

G J Blumenthal (1985) The development of Secure Units in child care Aldershot: Gower ISBN 0 566 00868 8

G J Blumenthal was Durham County Architect when he became involved in the plans to rebuild Royston House at Aycliffe Community Home with Education. In order to carry out his brief he carried out extensive research into the history of Secure Units and the existing facilities in England and Wales and distilled his experience into this book.

Key Ideas

- The reality of Secure Units for children does not match the literature.

- The children in Secure Units are largely not those for whom they were planned.

- Authorities will use a Secure Unit if there is one and open units if there isn’t.

- Relying on staff to provide security detracts from any treatment function.

- There has never been enough money to build adequate buildings.

- A Secure Unit is inherently conflictual, thus inhibiting the potential for treatment.

- There has been no agreement on the treatment to be provided in Secure Units nor the training needed by staff working in them.

- There has been no consistent documentation of problems in Secure Units or of attempts to remedy them.

- The design, facilities and space in most units have been poor.

- The problems in attitudes to Secure Units and in their physical design are many and various.

- Overall there has been

- a tendency to disregard security,

- over-optimism about the use of weaker components in design,

- slowness to admit problems and change out of date notions.

- Don’t blame children for design faults.

Contents

In Chapter 1 ‘Introduction’, he notes the capacity of heads and the Department of Health and Social Security to restrict information about Secure Units: the DHSS has also had ability to restrict information particularly where its involvement with the administration of the building programme is concerned. In addition, the great majority of the publications about the units have been produced or commissioned by the DHSS. This has made it possible for DHSS to emphasise the faults of others involved with the units by describing them at length while omitting to mention faults which can be ascribed to DHSS (pp. 1-2). He argues that the reality does not match the literature on Secure Units.

Part A: The Development of Secure Units

In Chapter 2 ‘The early history of the Secure Units, he describes how children were rarely locked up before the Second World War but the introduction of Detention Centres in 1948, an increase in absconding from Approved Schools and the 1959 Carlton School disturbances led to a report recommending separate facilities for:

- persistent absconders

- exceptionally unruly and uncooperative boys

- exceptionally disturbed boys

- medical misfits (epileptics, diabetics)

The first Secure Units were planned to offer a ‘brisk’ regime to boys from the first and second categories but the actual units turned out to be very different. In 1967 a working party looked at providing a Secure Unit for girls and in 1971 a Youth Treatment Centre, St Charles, was opened for severely disturbed children, though in practice the more seriously disturbed children ended up in Secure Units and not in St Charles.

Following the 1969 Children and Young Persons Act there was an increase in the use of Borstal and Detention Centres and in requests for secure places in the Community Homes system.

In Chapter 3 ‘The report on the development of the units’, he discusses the 1972 report Development of Secure Provision in the Community Homes which he describes as “an assemblage of ideas which are individually mainly reasonable, but some of which are incongruously juxtaposed, and some of which inconsistent” (p. 11), highlighting questionable ideas about regression and early diagnosis and the belief in control both by relationships and as far as humanely possible by the building.

He points out that the Glancy Report (Working Party on Security in NHS Hospitals, 1974) warned against staff providing security, that large units would be needed to justify the facilities and that there were huge inconsistencies between the Secure Units and psychiatric hospital reports.

In Chapter 4 ‘LAC(75)1′, he discusses the guidance on ‘intensive care units,’ noting that it represented an unsatisfactory compromise in that, while going for building security and better facilities in smaller units, it did not provide the resources to construct them. He suggests that politically the DHSS wished to close the single detention rooms that had been introduced after the Carlton House disturbances and that small units were more acceptable to local authorities who could build one that matched their needs.

Part B: The Functioning of the Units

In Chapter 5 ‘The children’, he notes that after 1969 the average age of children in Secure Units went down from around 16 or 17 to around 14 and that most of the children were not delinquent children but children from disturbed family backgrounds.

In Chapter 6 ‘Theory, assessment and treatment’, he summarises thinking on social rejection and delinquency, noting that children do not regard themselves as in need of treatment and that the considerable optimism that children could been changed by positive staff attitudes implied the need for better staffing. Research had shown that there was little success in institutions without change in the home environment. Moreover, it would be difficult to assess a child in a Secure Unit, especially if the institution itself was damaging.

In Chapter 7 ‘The effects of security’, he notes that institutions for problem children normally hold other problem children and being placed in a Secure Unit is more likely to increase resentment with the risk of further offences and/or self-abuse. Moreover, there is no tension release in a Secure Unit and there are invasions of privacy such as body searching.

Where conflicts and the expression of dominance lead to aggression, some children will retreat into neurotic responses. It is easier to organise the limited range of activities in groups, which both staff and children prefer, but this restricts the opportunities for individual interaction/treatment.

In Chapter 8 ‘Relationships’, he argues that staff can rarely enforce their will because, even if the group is fragmentary, some events will cause it to coalesce and ‘mood swings’ will affect behaviour. While children may appear dependent and attention seeking, they rarely respond to individual attention.

There are always issues of acceptance/rejection in a treatment situation and in a Secure Unit a conflict between the aims of the children to get out and the aims of the staff to treat. In this situation, it is vital that the buildings support the treatment.

In Chapter 9 ‘Organisation’, he highlights the tension between the need for staff to have autonomy and yet avoid inconsistency and the facts that, though there is agreement on the need for staff training, there is no agreement on the form it should take nor any experienced teachers. There is also the pressure on heads to ‘maintain control’ particularly in the face of external publicity.

In Chapter 10 ‘Behavioural methods’, he outlines some of the difficulties with behavioural methods and, while noting that Glenthorne and Dyson Hall claim success in using them, concludes that the case is not proven.

In Chapter 11 ‘Studies of the units’,  he summarises the results of the studies to date which show that the units have

  • no impact on re-offending
  • a negative impact on the less criminally sophisticated

In Chapter 12 ‘The re-evaluation of the circular’, he discusses the circular (Department of Health and Security, 1981) which reduced the optimistic aims and laid down the criterion for admission as risk to self or others; it abandoned the idea of treatment, got rid of the smallest units, avoided admitting DHSS blunders and made a lot of questionable claims about the quality of the buildings. There was a notable absence of documentary evidence on which to assess the use of Secure Units and no attempt to solve the real problems of provision.

In Chapter 13 ‘The Secure Accommodation Regulations and their context’, he notes that the peak in places occurred in 1980 when a national strategy was abandoned. The 1983 regulations, while intended to protect the child, actually led to more court appearances. He notes that the closure of all the singleton units along with Redhill and Southwood and the opening of East Moor did not lead to a geographical shift in the population; those previously going to a Secure Unit in one area were being held in open units and vice versa in another area.

In Chapter 14 ‘Function and design’, he argues that, if security is sound, children will lose interest in testing it whereas, if the building can easily be damaged, it will become an outlet for children. How it is planned can affect possible types of interaction while its appearance will create impressions.

Part C: The Building Programme

In Chapters 15 to 19 he discusses the early units. The original units built in the 1960s at Redhill, Surrey, Kingswood, Bristol and Red Bank, Newton-le-Willows were designed for a ‘brisk’ regime; of them Red Bank is the most pleasant and overall reaches a level of provision unmatched in later units.

The buildings of the early 1970s were usually poor, lacking indoor recreation space, often no secure external area and under-provided with educational space. The emphasis on domestic appearance was accompanied by lack of recognition of the effect of damage and the inexperience of staff in preventing damage and absconding.

Royston House, Aycliffe, a unit for 14 children housed in a converted wing of an existing Approved School had no areas for dining, outdoor recreation or education, which were provided elsewhere. Though there was not much damage overall, there was enough to show that the building was not secure.

A change of view in the late 1970s as more children who had committed grave crimes were being admitted and increasing recognition of the lack of security and the problems of leaving the building to go to the sports hall or swimming led to the 1982 agreement to replace it.

Southwood arose out of a proposal from Cumberlow Lodge for an intensive care unit; this became the girls’ Secure Unit which had not been implemented following the 1967 report. It had a gymnasium and education provision but a combined lounge/dining area in each of the units and no external secure space. The aluminium windows were easy to remove for absconding and the glass could be splintered for self-injury; the softwood bedroom doors and board ceilings were easy to damage and the conservatory could be used to hide things as well as being a source of glass. Overall, it was gloomy and it closed in 1983.

Appleton House, Tennal, was a conversion of the earlier detention rooms and sick bay to provide seven study bedrooms, a living/dining room and kitchen, a hobbies room and an education area. The workshops and sports hall were outside the unit. The various weaknesses in the design were offset by stable staff and a generally stable peer group; it closed in 1984.

In Chapter 20 ‘The study for the guidance‘, he examines the 1974 Research and Development Project for the DHSS arguing that Clause 1.2.1 - “The most effective form of security is adequate personal supervision in the right place at the right time” - is a case of ‘over-drafting’ and should not be taken literally.

The use of concrete roofs, heating pipes in floor ducts and electric cables inside the building would all lead to maintenance difficulties. There was no provision for education or indoor recreation and a secure court feasible within the design guidelines would be too small. The area per child in the best provided units would be 38m2 per child whereas at Frankland Prison it was 69m2 per inmate. A later recommendation that the area for a secure court should be half the area of the building implied a maximum of 19m2 per child whereas at Frankland Prison the equivalent area would be around 130m2 per inmate.

He argues that the high level of staffing recommended, combined with the length of stay of the children, were inconsistent with the poor provision of facilities.

In Chapter 21 ‘The guidance’, he notes that the DHSS was not prepared to consider extras but then blamed staff failings for building failings. They also refer to the units as for children with “severe misbehaviour and/or persistent absconding” (p. 82) when in fact many children had committed grave offences or had long criminal and/or delinquent experience. But less disruptive or criminally experienced children were disadvantaged by them (Cawson and Martell, 1979).

He notes various problems with the recommendations regarding lighting, ventilation and whether the units should be single storey. In effect, the guidance follows the development report and ignores the LAC(75)1 requirements for recreation and for education and for some aspects of security.

In Chapter 22 ‘The evaluation of early buildings‘, he discusses the 1977 Report on Evaluation of Design in Use by Troup and Steele, noting that Spring Cottage was seen as acceptable even though it was not consistent with the 1969 Children and Young Persons Act or LAC(75)1, while Royston House, which was to be replaced five years later, was judged good. The overemphasis on economy meant that weaker and cheaper construction was pronounced adequate.

In Chapter 23 ‘The administration of the building programme’, he argues that the focus on cost and the avoidance of subjective issues for which no financial allowance was made meant it was impossible to amend the cost limits even when there was a demonstrable need.

Though LAC(75)1 says units should be ‘light and airy’ and ‘aesthetic,’ these qualities are costly to provide and so the units were unpleasantly bare. Moreover, the cost limits made any freedom on the part of local authorities to develop more creative solutions illusory.

In Chapters 24 to 28 he discusses several more recent units. Heathlands at Middlesex Lodge has nowhere to take a child who is playing up; Gladstone House at Dyson Hall, Liverpool, is claustrophobic and has no gymnasium; various components have already had to be replaced. At Little Heath Lodge there are better facilities but no gymnasium and no separate education and the building is claustrophobic. At Orchard Lodge there is an education area and a small external secure area but there have been problems with the windows and doors, there is little storage space, the furniture is easily breakable and there is no heating control. Vardy House, Red Bank, is of a similar design to the original unit but the intercom system offers no privacy, the day areas are cramped and there is less education, recreation and day space than in the 1965 unit; indeed, the conditions are worse than when there was no pretence to treatment.

In Chapter 29 ‘The recognition and representations of the problems’, he runs through the key problems:

- The expectations for security and treatment need to be maintained.

- In relation to the regime, staff effort is directed into compensating for building deficiencies by, for example, authoritarianism, group pressure or threats of transfer.

- Staff are often blamed for weaknesses in the buildings, which are exposed during a period of transition.

- There were functional variations. Are the units short stay or not? Do they have a treatment focus? Are the children at the end of the line - in which case is what they do irrelevant? How important is assessment?

- Concerning staff perceptions, older staff develop ways of dealing with building vulnerabilities which they see as evidence of their competence compared with junior staff.

- According to outsiders’ perceptions, domesticity leads to passivity and inaction.

- Most outsiders, for example senior staff in the local authority, are not prepared to confront the problems.

- Damage often requires a lot to repair, which increases awareness of building weakness among the children and supervision by the staff, which then detract from the unit function.

- Neither the heads nor the DHSS welcome the reporting of problems.

In Chapter 30 ‘Problems with the buildings’, he argues that very small units lack both facilities and a stable peer group. Only the original units and East Moor have adequate external secure space; only the original units, Southwood, the new Royston House and East Moor have adequate internal recreation space; many lack adequate education facilities.

The key problems are:

- ventilation linked to preventing the passing of objects into the building and heating control;

- windows: poor specifications;

- doors: few fitted according to the specifications;

- secure courts: too small and barbed wire added to some to prevent escapes;

- damage: relatively easy;

- design: the number of storeys and the layout influencing the distance staff have to patrol;

- appearance:  mostly claustrophobic, dull and gloomy.

In Chapter 31 ‘The supplement to the guidance’, he discusses the 1980 supplement in which cost is the primary concern; it suggests outward-looking windows (which will increase the desire to abscond) and a U-shape or square to enclose a secure court (but these reduce ease of supervision).

Other suggestions in the supplement are inconsistent with the cost limits such as a gymnasium and a reduced external secure court and a fence to restrict access to outward-facing windows. The suggestions to solve the ventilation problems are inadequate and those for better locks simply make the door weaker.

In Chapters 32 and 33 he discusses two recent units, Redsands and East Moor. Redsands uses mechanical ventilation and white ceilings to give a ‘light and airy’ feel and the Mul-T-Lock system to avoid weakening the doors but the secure court is too small and the shape of the building makes supervision more difficult. It was also 50% above cost limits.

At East Moor there are three units of two-storey buildings around a single secure court, across which movement occurs; dining may be in the main dining room or in the units. However, the bedrooms are small, the window cills are high and there are a lot of weaker fittings.

In Chapter 34 ‘Recent developments‘, he describes the fallout from the death by hanging of a child in 1982 at St Charles Youth Treatment Centre. In January 1983 the DHSS issued a circular indicating that there would be no new units but capital grants to repair/refurbish existing units; this led to the replacement of Royston House, a new building at Kingswood and the overhaul of Stamford House. Some units received extensions to provide recreation and education areas; however, the earlier guidance was not withdrawn.

Part D: Details of Building Problems

In Chapters 35 to 42 he covers the specific design issues relating to ventilation, windows, doors and walls, roof voids and roofs, external secure areas, sanitary areas, furniture and finishes and soft furniture.

In Chapter 43 ‘Planning’, he describes how he addressed these issues in the design of the new Royston House which has a centralised, single-storey building, a secure external area the same size as the unit, bedrooms facing onto the secure court and education rooms in a petal arrangement.

Part E: Comparisons With Other Secure Institutions

In Chapter 44 ‘Regional Secure Units in psychiatric hospitals: the Glancy and Butler’ reports, he looks at the DHSS response to the open door policy in mental hospitals and the need for specific closed units as set out in the Glancy Report (Working Party on Security in NHS Hospitals, 1974) and the Interim Butler Report (Committee on mentally abnormal offenders, 1975) . The former had suggested there were up to 1,000 patients who might need secure care and the latter that there were about 1,000 mentally abnormal offenders in prison.

The Glancy Report had suggested units for 50-100 patients with educational, occupational and recreational facilities, imaginative use of space, wide corridors, raised ceilings and bright colours. The Butler Report had argued that, as Regional Secure Units would not be the end of the line, security was not a paramount concern.

He notes that Glancy had argued that relying on staff to provide security might divert them from their treatment functions.

In Chapter 45 ‘The design guidelines’, he discusses the 1975 design guidelines which had been issued in response to requests from Regional Health Authorities. These too had started from cost, making no allowance for the costs of security and assuming that smaller units would use facilities in the main hospital. The guidelines suggest different levels of security but not how to reflect that in the buildings. The suggestion that perimeter security should only be intended to delay an absconder is inadequate because of the cost in staff time of retrieving an absconder is high.

In Chapter 46 ‘The buildings for the Regional Secure Units’, he describes the two units that had been constructed, the Hutton Unit, St Luke’s, Middlesbrough in 1981 which has fewer facilities than might have been envisaged, and the Scott Clinic, Rainhill, from 1983 which has a large external secure court and a compact design and where the acceptance of damage has led to the decision to use things that are easy to replace.

In Chapter 47 ‘Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre‘, he discusses the design of the second Youth Treatment Centre which he argues is less pleasant than either Rainhill or East Moor and has major problems.

In Chapter 48 ‘Regimes and buildings in post-war prisons’, he describes how the design of Everthorpe was criticised for being old-fashioned and this led to the design of Blundeston in 1963 where compromises on security were accepted. However the 1966 escape of George Blake led to the 1968 Mountbatten Report which introduced the security categories from A to D and suggested a new A category prison. However, the 1968 Radzinowicz subcommittee recommended that A category prisoners be dispersed and Albany Prison which had been designated a C category prison was re-designated as an A category with the addition of a concrete wall. When Frankland Prison was opened in 1982 it was based on the 1961 principles but required twice the staffing of Wakefield Prison.

In summary, he argues there has been

  • a tendency to disregard security,
  • over-optimism about the use of weaker components in design,
  • slowness to admit problems and change out of date notions.

Part F: Conclusion

In Chapter 49 ‘Conclusions’, he argues that you should not blame the children for design faults.

The book concludes with an index of manufacturers and tables of all the Secure Units for children in 1980-4.

Discussion

This book is unique in many ways; it is written by an architect, not by someone with a long or close connection with child care, it provides a snapshot of all the secure provision for children in England and Wales and it offers a multi-layered analysis of child care policy, research and practice unmatched in any formal research study. Though there are points at which a deeper understanding of the child care issues might have sharpened the analysis, the humanity that pervades the book makes it comparable in its own sphere with Juvenile Delinquents (Carpenter, 1853).

Both address the issues at all four levels of analysis (Vander Ven, 1981) - policy, external relations, staff interactions and individuals - with Blumenthal demonstrating in the issues surrounding the design of windows, for example, how the cost and design recommendations of the DHSS impact on the view of the unit to outsiders, the risks that staff need to be aware of and the opportunities for damage and self-harm that they provide to the children.

In so doing he exposes a level of complacency and incompetence at the DHSS which would have rendered a private company open to multiple lawsuits for negligence if not for culpable negligence. But, by implication, this book is also a damning indictment of all those child care workers at all levels who have colluded with the system. As Cawson and Martell (1979) and Millham et al. (1978) make clear, there always have been child care workers who have protested on behalf of children or taken risks to provide a more humane experience for children in Secure Units but these principled stands have counted for little in the experience of the vast majority of children in Secure Units.

He also shares with Mary Carpenter the fate that, however piercing his analysis, successive governments have been able to ignore his arguments and there are now at least five times more children in closed institutions than there were when he was writing even though the number of young people in the population is less than it was then.

Finally, his conclusion “Don’t blame children for the problems you have created” makes him perhaps the most worthy successor to Mary Carpenter.

References

Carpenter, M. (1853) Juvenile delinquents, their condition and treatment London: W & F G Cash See also Children Webmag November 2008

Cawson, P. and M. Martell (1979) Children referred to closed units DHSS Research Report No 5 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Committee on mentally abnormal offenders (1975) Report of the committee on mentally abnormal offenders London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (Butler Report)

Department of Health and Social Security (1981) Legal and professional aspects of the use of secure accommodation for children in care London: Department of Health and Social Security

Millham, S., R. Bullock and K. Hosie (1978) Locking up children: secure provision within the child care system Farnborough: Saxon House

Vander Ven, K. D. (1981) Patterns of career development in group care In F. Ainsworth and L. Fulcher (Eds) Group care for children: concept and issues Chapter 8, pp. 201-224. London: Tavistock See also Children Webmag January 2009.

Working Party on Security in NHS Hospitals (1974) Revised report London: Department of Health and Social Security (Glancy Report).


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22 Responses to “‘The Development of Secure Units in Child Care’ by G J Blumenthal”

  1. Roy Grimwood Says:

    In my view, this book was to some extent representative of its time, but is now so out of date as to be almost irrelevant. That does not mean to say that issues around secure care have gone away - far from it - but they are generally not the ones in this book (which I must admit I have not re-read since it was first published). At the time, secure accommodation orders had only just been introduced which took the power away from local authorities and gave it to the courts.

    The book did have some impact on future design, but I do recall some cynicism about an architect writing this at a time when there was a secure unit expansion programme being discussed which would require local authorities to commission architects. Whether or not there was a commercial motivation, much of the design comment was good, and much has been taken on board; some has been surpassed.

  2. Patricia Buckland Says:

    I was in a secure unit, at Middlesex Lodge, yes from a disturbed background, they used prison cells to lock us up, I hated it there, this was in the 1970s and throughout my whole childhood the worst place in hell for me to be. I was sensible enough not to commit any crime, I was not a thief, just a child crying out for parents who had abandoned me as a baby and my sister. I tried to escape, jumped off the roof onto fire escape broke my foot and was not allow to use crutches how inhumane is this.

  3. Sam Ellis Says:

    Hi Patricia.

    I am studying Education, Culture and Society and hope to write my assignment on secure units. Would you be interested in me perhaps contacting you at a later date for information? It won’t be until at least October.

    Thank you.

    Sam

  4. Tania Says:

    I was in Cumberlow Lodge Remand and Assessment Centre and Southwood Secure Unit in 1981/82. I was locked-up for a year, I had asked for help! I managed to eventually runaway and stay away. I hated them places, I had no therapy it was wrong. They were terrible places. I kept a diary and have always planned to write a book, now rather than just tell my story I have put myself in it and realised this is my life not just a story!

  5. Patricia Buckland Says:

    Hi Sam,

    Re your response, I would be interested in supplying information on secure units. I was also in Avalon, which was a secure unit as well. This had a padded cell. This was a home run by the Salvation Army I believe it is not flats. If you type in Avalon, Summerhill, Chislehurst you will see pictures of it. It did become a social services building I believe at one stage and I visited the place in Summer this year, but no one was in.

    Patricia Buckland,

  6. Patricia Buckland Says:

    For those of you who wanted to know about Avalon secure unit see below. My maiden name was Buckland, but now I am Patricia Mattson.

    What is Avalon???? by sedge (Member 10131162) on 29-Aug-2004
    Oposite the Summer Hill entrance to Chislehurst station is a drive way sign posted Avalon. I believe it’s a college only it doesn’t seem to be listed on any educational web sites. Also I’ve seen quite a few stretched limo’s go up the drive….
    Re: What is Avalon???? by margaret foyle (Member 10113432) on 18-Oct-2005
    Avalon chislehurst kent in the 50’s upto i think the 80’s was an approved school run by the salvation army.They were very kind there.I was only 16 but we had some laughs.

    Re: What is Avalon???? by Jan Jacobs (Member 10175087) on 21-Jan-2006
    Hello Margaret

    Have just seen your message, were you at Avalon in 1951?

    Jan Jacobs

    Re: What is Avalon???? by margaret foyle (Member 10113432) on 28-Jul-2007
    a bit late jan but i was at Avalon 1961

    Re: What is Avalon???? by Jan Jacobs (Member 10175087) on 2-Oct-2007
    Avalon Summerhill Chislehurst was a place of detention for girls up to 17/18.

    An Approved school a place of fear, horror and terror.

    Why were they there. Most came from homes that were less than satisfactory, they had committed no crimes. But they were punished worse than adult prisoners. They had no voice and no one cared. A hell hole. That has left my whole life reeling from the ter
    ror. Fifty years later it is not resolved and still gives me and many other girls who were there - nightmares.
    … more >>

    Re: What is Avalon???? by patricia mattson (Member 10218859) on 2-Jan-2008
    Hi there,
    I too was at Avalon in around 1978, I would love to have a picture of it, do you have one you could email to me?

    I remember that it closed down for some reason whilst I was there, (and I was relocated) apparently the lady in charge had a nervous breakdown. That’s what we were told, but it was all so sudden. I was glad as I hated it there. I remember the lounge where we all sat a
    round in arm chairs, (like an old peoples home). There were all different coloured rooms, like the pink room, blue room and gold room, etc. Some say they were haunted; I remember being isolated and put in one of the rooms on my own at night with 8 beds all around me and I was scared out of my wits. Then they had this room padded white cell where they used to put you if they thought you were naughty enough! I had done nothing wrong - me and my sister were in care from age of 18 months.

    I would love to hear about your experience there too. Could you email me.

    thanks,
    Patricia
    … more >>

    Re: What is Avalon???? by Dawn (Member 10221903) on 23-Feb-2008
    Hi I was at Avalon, about 1969-70, What a horrible place it was, I remember the lounges downstairs and the chairs being set out in rows when i was there, The Salvation Army staff, were like prison officers then, I remember the padded room too, but i never experienced it though! I remember the bedrooms were named after old film stars when I was there, I myself like a lot of girls who went there had
    nt done anything wrong, but you still felt as though you were being punished for something! Dawn,

    … more >>

    Re: What is Avalon???? by caroline fernandez (Member 10248229) on 29-May-2010
    hi im caroline & i was at avalon from 1964-67,i also remember it being vrey scarey i ran away twice with Lynn only to be brought back,sorry i cant remember your surname.Them days we were brainwashed with religion & was military run worse than borstal.The person in charge was Eva Lancaster a right bitch.My dormatry was Burt Lancaster.Them days we were all classed as juvenile delinquents,i dont get
    nightmares anymore but still have horrifying thoughts about the place.I;d love to hear from anyone especialy my mate Lynn.frank.barclay@hotmail.com

    … more >>

    Reply

  7. mel Says:

    i was in cumberlow and middlesex lodge in mid eighties and was in holloway a few times to and cumberlow and middlesex secure units were worse than any jail ive been in , they were awful in middlesex lodge you were just locked in with absolutley nothing to do , no books no tv you didnt even get out of the unit ever , and my crime was that i ran away from an abusive care home in north wales, they locked you up without having commited a crime and it was indefinate till the judge felt like letting you go, i really hope times have changed and they dont lock up kids like adults any more

  8. Jane Says:

    I too was in Middlesex Lodge in the early 1980’s. Again my ‘crime’ was to have an abusive alcoholic mother and to run away from home. I wiil never forget arriving there and being taken to a room with a bath in and being told told to strip and get into the bath and wash with flee shampoo. I was 13 had been abused and had to stand naked in front of two members of staff. All of my clothes were taken away and I was given long brown socks, jelly shoes and a skirt and top. Every evening we had to wash out our socks and knickers and place them in bucket were they were counted and hung up to dry. The reasoning behing this, that noone would abscond without their underwear!! And for those having their menstal cycle you had to go and ask for a sanitary towel from a staff member who then logged it in a book.When I look back, it seems amazing that children, because that whats we were, children were allowed to be treated in such an inhumane way when we had been removed by people working for the ’system’ who deemed our family and enviroment uncaring.

  9. tina Says:

    I was in cumberlow lodge between 1980 1nd 1982..i was appaled at the way us young girls were searched on admittance…my crime to be there was petty.. i was raped aged 11..went through an old bailey rape trial.. i was hurting ..emotionally confused.. doing petty crime for attention..i didnt realise then but that was the way i dealt with my hurt and pain..i was in cumberlow lodge for over a year..in that year i was surrouned by murderers.. a rapist..of all people.. a female rapist..why was i locked up..y..y wasnt i given the counselling the treatment i needed instead of being locked away..the system failed me miserabley…

  10. pippa Says:

    Hi there to all of you. I currently work in a secure unit and am doing my dissertation on ’should children be put in secur eif they are on a welfare order?’. I would love to find out if yourselves have any other alternantives you would have thought would have worked for you and anything else that you think may help. i myself do not agree with locking up children on the grounds of welfare, i cant say for criminal because that is what our adult system offers, but for welfare i am sure there could be an alternative.
    please let me know if you have anything to offer on this subject. i would love to hear from you :)

  11. Jan Jacobs Says:

    Hello Pippa

    Of course children should not be locked up if they are on a welfare order. What are you expecting them to learn from such a barbaric experience. You will create maladjusted children, create fear and finally set them on a path of life that is doomed to much sorrow and pain. You need to create for children, happiness understanding and allow them to understand. COMMUNICATION is vital. Not locked away in a terror unit however well designed and pretty, for that is what they are. It is about unconditional love.

    Can staff give that? If not then they should be in a different job, what appals me most of all is that people staff these places with little child experience, child experience is not about text book learning. It is about experiencing and understanding the plight the children are put in through poor parenting. Poverty and etc. Goverment has no understanding of poverty and poor parenting.

    50 years later I still have nightmares about being locked up in Avalon Approved School I had committed no crime; simply I was in the way at home. I liken it to rape - rape of my family put in such a place for a pereiod of time, marks you, makes you different, blackens your perspective of self, of worth, of ability of usefulness. You come out with a mind set that is set for doom. Full of fear. That fear penetrates every aspect of your life. Can you even imagine it. Of course you cannot, you have to experience living your young life under continual fear. If I see someone in Salvation Army uniform even today it evokes such horrific fear and painful memories I have to move fast and take full control of my mind.

    Children should be VALUED they are not a cheap commodity. To value children you need to be able to understand and meet their needs. They are all different.

    Just my thoughts now as a ‘grannie’. I survived I could be dead, a drug addict, a prostitute, somehow I survived; no thanks to Salvation Army Approved School or family.

    I found something in me that made me angry at the injustice done to me and thousands of other young girls but who cares? - no one - I became determined to make a mark for myself and I did. It took some 20 years of self funded counselling sessions to come to terms with the horror. GP could not even fund counselling to put right what the goverment allowed to be done to me.

    Jan J

  12. LONDONGIRL Says:

    hi i was in cumberlow lodge roundabout 1969/1970 not quite sure but mr hart was the head person there at that time like many others not for being a criminal but having bad parents who should never been allowed to have children or so many , we were put into groups or i think we called them houses my memory of being there is i,d much rather been there than with my parents but i did feel i was being punished for them especially an abusive mother we had discipline there but not over the top in a place like this you have to have a certain amount of discipline or i like to say routine but as long as it is given in a pleasant way and not like orders it can work and children will respond or young girls as we were will accept routine we got on well with the staff at the time wish i could remember names they were very pleasant people mr hart himself let myself and another girl out to clean his car for him testing us if we would try to runaway we did not . anyway my life has not been easy but due to parents not because of being in institutions joan

  13. Tania Says:

    Hi, firstly for Tina who left a message, we must of both been in Cumberlow at the same time, I was there when there was a female rapist there in 81/82, I then went to Southwood. Tania

    Hi Pippa, I would be happy to talk about alternative method’s of helping children without locking them up, of course if you commit crime you must face the consequences of your actions, which may include custodial sentencing. And like many of the comments on here if you are born into dysfunction how do you learn a healthy way to live if nothing is healthy around you. Certainly not by being locked up with other children who also know no boundaries, and then being treated like you are bad anyway.
    I am now in my late 40’s and have just been through a court case the person who sexually abused me was finally arrested and after a year of waiting to go to court as a witness and then being cross-examined for a day and a half the case was ‘Stayed’, and i felt like they blamed me all over again…the judge said the sexual abuse was now an excuse for my behaviour as a teenager. I couldnt believe what i read…i didnt sit in the court i was advised not to. I was shocked that 30 years later such a comment was made by a female judge. They brought up my criminal history which is also 30 years old, what that had to do with his guilt I dont know. They didnt talk about the fact that i am now a healthy human being, i set my own business up 16 years ago and it is wonderful, i work in childcare. This is a short version.
    I have so much to say. Not sure this is the right forum.

  14. Tania Says:

    tania.munnery@btinternet.com

  15. Tania Says:

    please delete my comments & email. Thank you

  16. tara. Says:

    hello all. my sister was in cumberlow lodge around 1981,i recall visiting her there on her birthday and not being alound to give her a gift or hug and she was very destressed.sad to say my sister was killed 2 years ago hit by a lorry she had been drinking its not known if she done it delibeirty or what,but i know she self harmed and had a bad time in this world her whole life.i am trying to get any info i can to look into why she was failed so much by places like cumberlow,and truely beleave my big sis wound of been treated for something like adhd for sure if anyone had bothered to see her illness was not being bad! i know she had alfull times in these places and no her life should of been so diffent. anyone know how or where i would start to get files on her assments in cumberlow loudge? please any thoughts would be so thankfull. x

  17. Karen.. Says:

    hi. i was in cumberlow lodge in 1982.. there was 2 tina’s in my group. i shared a room with a girl named tina.. wonder if its you tina..?.. my crime was running away from my childrens home. i remember bein so scared goin into that place.. i was taken to a room & told to strip & get in a bath.. & then looked in a single room.. i could see all the girls out of the window.. & they all looked so much bigger than me.. lol. i was in there for 2half months.. i was glad to see the back of that place.. some of the staff were ok.. but i remember one member of staff bein a total cow.. miss Mc clould was her name… she threaten me..on my first day.. she told me if i played up or hit any staff.. i would be thrown in to the badded cell for 24 hours.. & they could bring outside the cell for 5mins & throw me back in for another 24hours.. Evil Cow.. i went cumberlow as a young Traumatised girl.. i left that place feeling even more traumatised.. at the fact my social worker could take me to a place like that.. im pleased to say.. i made a life for myself..without any help from my social worker.. and im hoping all the other girls that was in there.. went on and made a good life for them selfs

  18. Sue Melling Says:

    I was at Cumberlow Lodge in the early 1970’s. There were three groups, Mrs Wyatts, Mrs Aberccelli and Mr Batterby’s. There was also a 4th group called C.P. Closed Provision. Tom Hart was the Superintendant and I have my Cumberlow assessment. I threw a fire extinguisher at the window in the smallest group room (Mrs Wyatts) and it bounced off the perspex window! On my birthday my grandmother brought me a cake, it was cut into so many peices by the staff, it looked like a pile of crumbs. I was not allowed many letters, that were opened and read, or birthday presents. We wore work dresses, bathed daily and much much more. My memory is so good because I can not forgive Tom Hart for throwing me backwards over a sofa and knocking me out on a table. NO MEDICAL TREATMENT. I was carried down to the cell by Vinters. I spent 3 days there and you must think my crime was awful. No, it was a remand home but I was there for assessment as I ran away from my previous placement and was sent to Cumberlow Lodge under a 28 day place of safety order. I was given a section 2 care order and then spent January to April there. Tom Hart was given an OBE for his services to children. That man was a bully who scared the girls and the staff. nearly 40 years on and that man scarred me more than my previous or past life. The country honoured him, I wonder if they knew the truth?

  19. headyhop Says:

    Hi - what I have read here is shocking. People who treated vulnerable children like this should have their disgusting behaviour acknowledged - if nothing else. That’s all I can say.

  20. ZenawedlakeZenashiltonwwwhotmail Says:

    I was in miltonhouse in1973/4 Then sent to the vile place they call avalon I didn’t commit any crimes I just was a school phobic Iwould like to hear from any body who remembers me. Avalon was run like a high security prison and staff tried their hardest to break you. They didn’t manage with me although I spent hors in ter padded cell the staff were nasty and u feeling I used to get them back by putting silver fish in their food. THe gardener was a pervert who used to talk about sex the whole time you had to work with him.When I told staff they called me a nasty little liar one girl pulled a knife on him so she was sent off to the padded cell for two days. THeres lots I can tell you if you want to know then contact me I will name and shame the low life’s Zena Wedlake

  21. julie Says:

    hi, i am trying to find out if the detention centre called AVALON is still there, i have read all your comments and am appalled at the treatment you received there,i have been trying to research this place for some years my mother was sent there in 1959/60 ish she died 3 years ago and i would love to go there if it still exsists….help

  22. Jan Jacobs Says:

    Hi Julie

    I was in the hell hole called Avalon from 1958 - 1960 I am now 70 years old and the horror and terror of the staff and ace still haunts me waking and sleeping. email me. Jan Jacobs

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