by Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, inspection 4 - 8 February 2008, report compiled May 2008, published today Thursday 21st August 2008
Escort vehicles with caged compartments were inappropriately used to transport children.
the average length of children's detention had increased and this had a detrimental effect on children and their families.
overall provision of health services was a concern
Children staying for more than a few days received an unsatisfactory educational experience and there were few activities outside school hours.
There was no evidence that children's individual needs were systematically taken into account when decisions to detain were made. Our interviews with detained children illustrated the effect of sudden arrest and detention on their wellbeing and reflected how scared they were while held in detention.
The standard of care delivery was reasonable for basic primary care, but some serious gaps in provision, including poor access and communication, impacted negatively on detainee wellbeing. Services for children were under-developed.
Download the full report http://www.ncadc.org.uk/Newszine97/2008-Yarl'sWoodfinal.pdf
IntroductionYarl's Wood, near Bedford, is the main immigration removal centre for women and families. This was the centre's first full announced inspection since it was taken over by Serco in April 2007. Despite the upheaval of this change of management and a significant reduction in staff, the centre was performing reasonably well in many areas. However, as with all immigration removal centres, there were insufficient activities for detainees. We were also particularly concerned by the length of detention of some children and the damaging effect this had on them.
Arrangements to ensure the safety of women at Yarl's Wood were generally sound: reception was well designed and managed, there was little evidence of bullying, rates of self-harm were low, use of force was proportionate and there was little use of separation. We particularly welcomed the much more reasonable approach to security now in place, with women allowed unsupervised access to more of the establishment than on our last visit. However, a lack of legal advice and inadequate information about immigration casework left many women anxious and afraid.
The plight of detained children remained of great concern. While child welfare services had improved, an immigration removal centre can never be a suitable place for children and we were dismayed to find cases of disabled children being detained and some children spending large amounts of time incarcerated. We were concerned about ineffective and inaccurate monitoring of length of detention in this extremely important area. Any period of detention can be detrimental to children and their families, but the impact of lengthy detention is particularly extreme.
The centre was brighter and better decorated than on our last visit. Staff and detainees generally got on well, although some staff appeared too busy to get to know the women in their care. Faith services were good, but it was disappointing that diversity policy and procedures were underdeveloped. Women complained about the food. Healthcare needed further improvement, particularly to address mental health and child health needs.
We were once again disappointed by the limited amount of activity available for detainees. The centre remained hamstrung by the Border and Immigration Agency (now the UK Border Agency) assumption that detainees would be quickly removed and, therefore, that purposeful activity was not a priority. Yet at the time of the inspection, over 40% of detainees had been at Yarl's Wood for more than a month. While there was a limited education programme, a small amount of paid work and good library and physical education opportunities, many detainees remained bored and insufficiently occupied. Many sat around watching television or films. The nursery was well resourced, but education and after-school activities for children were inadequate.
We welcomed the appointment of a new welfare officer, although his role was underresourced. Visiting arrangements were good, but the visits area was not sufficiently supervised. Access to telephones was also good and internet access had recently been introduced.
Yarl's Wood is to be congratulated on sustaining reasonable performance in many areas, despite the upheavals of the change of management and reduction in staff numbers. However, significant concerns remain, particularly the lack of activity for detainees, which is a failure that we have identified across the immigration detainee estate. Even more worrying was the plight of children detained for increasing periods of time and with insufficient provision to meet their needs. Yarl's Wood must seek to meet these concerns, but they are ultimately issues for the UK Border Agency, which must urgently address them.
Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, May 2008
Source for this Message:Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales http://inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmiprisons/
NCADC News Service