Children in Detention: Report on the Cedars

March 2017: C E D A R S Pre-Departure Accommodation Independent Monitoring Board 2016 Annual Report

2.3 Population Profile during 2016

The number of families accommodated at Cedars during 2016 was lower than in 2015, although this was for nine and a half months only. 14 families were accommodated during the reporting period.

The families represented nine different nationalities of which the top three were Albanian, Chinese and Nigerian. The top two religions were Islam and Christianity. Of the 14 families, two were removed from the UK, 12 were released into the community, of which five were released due to disruption or non-compliance. Three of these were released from Cedars and two at the departure point. Assessment, Care in Residence and Teamwork (ACRT) procedures were initiated six times, and there were no recorded incidents of actual self-harm.

Home Office expected to announce controversial contractor will provide services rather than Barnardo’s charity

The private security company G4S is to take over from a children’s charity the contract to provide welfare support to detained families facing deportation, the Home Office is expected to announce on Friday.

The Home Office has privately insisted that the much-criticised private security company can provide the “same key aspects of welfare support to families” as have been delivered by the current providers, Barnardo’s.

The decision has led to serious concerns being raised by the former Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, who secured an end to the routine immigration detention of children as part of the coalition government, and says it is “openly putting children at risk”.The change of provider follows the closure of the underused Cedars “pre-departure accommodation” near Gatwick in December. The Cedars was opened in 2011 after the coalition agreement as part of new family deportation policy that encouraged families to leave voluntarily and gave a higher priority to the welfare of the children involved.

A new “discrete self-contained unit” at nearby Tinsley House immigration removal centre to handle family deportations is due to open in May. The Home Office is to announce on Friday that G4S has been awarded the contract for the unit, which is initially for 3 years but can be extended to five years.

The Home Office contract requires the firm to provide support to children and families while they await their removal, to help them to come to terms with the plans for their return and to help them make preparations for their departure and future resettlement.

Clegg said: “The government’s recent disregard for the welfare and safeguarding of vulnerable children is not the Great Britain I know and admire. First they go back on a promise to accept unaccompanied child refugees from Syria and now they are openly putting innocent children at risk.

“Charities have been clear that moving families waiting to be deported to Tinsley House is not in the best interests of the children. The truth is, the prison-style environment is not physically safe for children and could impact on their emotional wellbeing. That is exactly why the Liberal Democrats, whilst in coalition, insisted on the establishment of Cedars as suitable accommodation in the first place.”

In a letter seen by the Guardian flagging up the G4S decision, Home Office minister Susan Williams says that the key aspects of the welfare support provided to families will remain the same despite the change of provider and the change of location.

She insisted that the new pre-departure accommodation at Tinsley House will be used only as a last resort after all voluntary and other return options have failed and an independent family returns panel will be consulted before any family is detained in the unit.

Managing director for G4S custodial and detention services, Jerry Petherick, said: “This announcement is testament to the expertise our team has developed over many years working with families in the days before removal from the UK.”