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JOYCE THOMPSON (Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre)

JOYCE THOMPSON (Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre)

COMMENDEE 2011-12: Joyce is commended for her dedication to improving the knowledge and skills of staff at Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre, in her role as Training and Development Manager.


[Joyce Thompson gives her account of the work for which she was awarded a Commendation.]

I was given a Butler Trust Commendation because of my contribution to staff development and learning. My hypothesis was that in creating a leaning organisation a cultural change would occur – staff knowledge would grow, skills would be honed and importantly long held negative assumptions and beliefs about young people who offend would be challenged.

As a staff development and training manager within the Custodial Services Directorate of the Youth Justice Agency, I have always been motivated by the belief that we would be the centre of Excellence in Europe for provision of best practice to young people within a custodial setting. I brought about the need for a minimal qualification requirement for all unqualified staff i.e. an NVQ Level 3 or above in Youth Justice and afford staff the opportunity to gain a professional Social Work qualification. Staff motivation, enthusiasm and keenness to embrace lifelong learning resulted in a full complement of qualified staff in  NVQ Level 3 and above .

The main implement of change was the need to manage aggressive and violent behaviours as the numbers of physical restrains in the centre were high. We had employed two systems of intervention, firstly, Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) which can include a physical control element but found elements not appropriate (brining young people to the ground), and not robust enough for our client group. We employed another physical restraint system, Physical Control in Care (PCC) which met our needs when dealing with young people presenting violent behavioural outbursts.

I discovered a catalyst for change when developing TCI/PCC training and refresher training. In 2004 the common belief among staff was that TCI and PCC were separate entities with no obvious care continuum relationship. Highlighting and emphasising the marriage between the 2 systems, on a care continuum, brought about a new model of safer practice reducing the number of restraints and empowering staff with confidence and skills to support young people through their behavioural and emotional crisis. The marriage between the 2 systems was facilitated by PCC Instructors becoming TCI Trainers and integrating refresher training of both interventions using real practice scenarios.

As a result of integration of the two systems there has been a major impact on the reduction of physical restraint. When dealing with a young person in crisis staff must initially employ TCI principles with an unlimited time limit. The effective use of this tool has resulted in a safer environment for young people and staff, an environment which fosters dignity and respect and a learning environment for young people to manage their emotional responses in a more productive way.

Our statistics in terms of restraint stand for themselves; we have one of the least number of restraints in the UK in comparison to similar institutes as cited in the YJA Annual Report 2009-20011 England and Wales and the YJA Annual Report 20011-2012 cites statistics of restraints in comparison to England – Woodlands -0.06, YOI-0.19., STC-0.28 , SCH-0.56.

Our self-harm statistics again are comparatively low – a situation attributable to the TCI ethos now embedded in centre best practice.

TCI promotes skill building; staff development of the skills of active listening, behavioural support techniques, emotional management and crisis co-regulation. In turn young people are taught to use positive self talk, to take control of their emotions and to use functional behaviours to manage crisis situations.

A by-product is the quality of relationships built with young people, an acceptance by staff that restraint and control is a last resort only and taking a patient, calm, practiced response towards those in emotional crisis, affects the best outcome.  TCI promoted the health and well-being of staff as an investment in their training shows how they are highly valued, that they operate within a safe supportive working environment where power hierarchs and inequalities are minimised, where respect is shown for all and towards all, and that positive outcomes can arise from negative experiences.

Young people benefit from a supportive, caring environment which promotes trust in adult authority and the development of self regulation skills which can only augur well for their future. On admission and during their induction young people receive written and verbal information fully explaining the TCI and PCC systems, why and when they are used and that all staff receive training in both interventions.

TCI has contributed to the achievement of a complimentary mention by the Irish Penal Reform Trust as an example of International best practice. Added to which is that the public, staff and victims are protected through our risk management procedures.

Importantly, there is now pride in working in this environment, a willingness to self-respect and improve practice and importantly, to build respectful, engaging relationships with young people and their families


[The following article appeared in issue 4 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]

Joyce Thompson received a commendation for her dedication to improving the knowledge and skills of staff at Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre. As training and development manager she knew that this would improve outcomes for the children in their care.

Joyce embraced the introduction of therapeutic crisis intervention – a system for helping young people to manage their emotions and dysfunctional behaviour – and actively promoted it as core training for staff. The workforce has been transformed to a motivated and well qualified team who embrace the highest values of social care. From leading this centre of excellence, Joyce has been credited with being at the heart of the transformation of juvenile custodial care in Northern Ireland.

For more information: contact Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre

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