Yarlswood: report of unannounced inspection undertaken in June 2017

Today, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons have released their report on their most recent independent and unannounced inspection of Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

The centre was last inspected in 2015. This inspection showed some improvements in conditions for the 300 people held there (mostly women, but also also adult family groups and small number of men in the residential short-term holding facility) but also flagged serious concerns about who is being detained, and for how long.

At the time of the inspection, 15 people had been held for between six months and a year and one had recently been held in detention for more than three years. This is unacceptable, and we welcome that the report repeats its recommendation from 2015, calling for a strict time limit on the length of detention.

The report echoes the concerns of our members about the effectiveness of the Adults at Risk policy to protect vulnerable people from detention: 1/5 of those in detention had been assessed by Home Office to be ‚Äėat the higher levels of risk‚Äô; in several cases, detention was maintained despite the acceptance of professional evidence of torture.

One of the starkest figures in the report is that nearly 70% of those detained were released back into the community. More humane and less costly community-based alternatives to detention have¬†proved to be successful, leaving little justification for continued mass, long-term detention. The UK continues to detain on a greater scale that most of Europe, with around 30,000 people detained each year ‚Äď indefinitely.

In response to the report, Ali McGinley, director of AVID, said:

Time and again the¬† UK‚Äôs key statutory monitoring body provides indisputable evidence that the detention system is putting people at risk. We continue to see really vulnerable people in detention despite recent policy changes ‚Äď clearly the new protections are not working and today‚Äôs report substantiates this. The continued detention of torture¬† survivors and others deemed to be ‚Äúhigh risk‚ÄĚ, despite government commitment to protect these groups, is indefensible. It is time for these findings to be taken seriously, with actions that move beyond the broken or failed promises of the last few years towards the fundamental reforms so desperately needed, starting with the introduction of a time limit as a matter of urgency.¬†

Angelic, a  member of the These Walls Must Fall campaigning group in Manchester, who has herself been detained in Yarl’s Wood said:

‚ÄúDetaining women and releasing them later serves no purpose whatsoever.¬† Why destroy instead of mending the broken?‚ÄĚ

Mishka from Freed Voices: (a group of experts-by-experience on detention who between them have lost over twenty years to the detention system) said:

‚ÄúFreed Voices welcome this report ‚Äď it is another round of ammunition in the fight against indefinite detention. But this is also not the first time a HMIP report has called for a time-limit. They have been pushing for reform for decades. Mental health deterioration, abuse, suicide, death ‚Äď nothing has changed. In reality, the Home Office gets a report like this and they just pick whatever recommendations they want to respond to and they ignore others. The fact they get to ‚Äėchoose‚Äô is representative of the problem of impunity across the detention estate. There is no real accountability. Real reform will only come when the Home Office is forced to change. That‚Äôs why we want people to get up and fight, and speak-out, and contact their MPs. We welcome reports but we need action.‚ÄĚ

Section 5. Summary of recommendations and good practice
The following is a listing of repeated and new recommendations and examples of good practice included in this report. The reference numbers at the end of each refer to the paragraph location in the main report, and in the previous report where  recommendations have been repeated.

Main recommendations

To the Home Office
5.1 There should be a strict time limit on the length of detention. (S35)
5.2 Rule 35 assessments should be completed within 24 hours. Reports should provide clear, objective and detailed professional assessments, including on evidence of PTSD. Responses should be prompt. Where professional evidence of torture is accepted, the exceptional reasons leading to the decision to maintain detention should be provided, in detail. Rape should be considered a form of torture for the purpose of Rule 35. (S36)
5.3 Robust governance of health services should ensure safe and effective medicines
management, including establishing an effective medicines management committee and checking professional credentials. Unqualified pharmacy staff should be supported and should not be given responsibility beyond their competence. Detainees should receive their medicines in a timely manner. (S38)

Main recommendations To the centre manager
5.4 More female staff should be recruited to ensure that at least 60% of staff in direct contact with women detainees are women. (S37)
5.5 The welfare department should see all detainees being released from the centre to address outstanding needs and signpost detainees to community support where required. (S39)

Recommendation To the Immigration Minister
5.6 Subject to risk assessment, detainees should have access to video calling and social media. (4.9, repeated recommendation 4.19)7

Recommendations To the Home Office
5.7 Bail summaries should contain all relevant information, including details of why a detainee has been assessed to be at risk in detention. Summaries should be given to the detainee by 2pm on the working day before their bail hearing. (1.72)

5.8 With the exception of medical in confidence issues, the centre should be aware of all complaints made to ensure managers have a good understanding of detainee concerns. (2.34, repeated recommendation 2.50)

Recommendation To the Home Office and escort contractors
Escort vehicles and transfers
5.9 Detainees should not be subject to long delays before transfer to Yarl’s Wood. They should never be transported during the night except for urgent operational reasons. (1.3, repeated recommendation 1.4)

Recommendation To the Home Office and centre manager
5.10 All detainees requiring it should be provided with the financial means to reach their final destination safely. (4.15, repeated recommendation 4.29)

Recommendations To the centre manager and health care provider
5.11 There should be more seats outside the medication area for detainees to wait for their medication. (2.51)
5.12 All clinical environments should be accessible only to health care staff and should comply with infection control standards. (2.52)

Recommendations To the health care provider
5.13 An effective monitoring system should be in place to ensure that all emergency resuscitation equipment is in good order. (2.53)
5.14 The in-possession policy should be adhered to, prescribing should follow local guidelines and there should be effective monitoring of prescribing trends to provide assurance of safe outcomes for detainees. Medicines should be stored safely. (2.68)

Recommendations To the centre manager
Early days in detention
5.15 Reception should not be staffed by a lone male officer and women should be screened by female nurses in reception. (1.11)
5.16 Night-time welfare checks should be fully explained to detainees in a language they understand, and they should be conducted by staff of the same gender. (1.12, repeated recommendation 1.16)
5.17 Induction should take place on the day following reception. Key information should be given to detainees in accessible, written formats. (1.13)

Bullying and violence reduction
5.18 When managers conclude that there is no need for an external investigation of a detainee’s allegation, a clear rationale for their decision should be recorded. (1.21)

Self-harm and suicide prevention
5.19 Managers should document the reasons why detainees are held in the supported living facility and the rooms adjacent to health care. (1.28)

Safeguarding (protection of adults at risk)
5.20 Safeguarding adults training should be delivered to all staff and should include raising awareness of trafficking, torture and the national referral mechanism. There should also be a single comprehensive list identifying detainees considered vulnerable, with effective multidisciplinary oversight and, where appropriate, care planning. (1.37)

Safeguarding children
5.21 Detainee custody officers and all other relevant staff should complete necessary safeguarding children training. (1.42)

5.22 Male staff should not search women’s rooms. (1.50)
5.23 Closed visits should only be imposed when there is evidence that a detainee has abused visits. There should be regular documented reviews of the related intelligence. (1.51)
5.24 All strip-searches should be accurately recorded and sufficient justification should be demonstrated. (1.52)

The use of force and single separation
5.25 All use of force incidents should be reviewed by managers and learning points should be shared with staff. (1.61)
5.26 All operational staff should be able to apply control and restraint techniques confidently and competently. (1.62)
5.27 The separation unit should only be used to accommodate detainees under Rule 40 or Rule 42. All Rule 40 and 42 records should fully justify the need for separation.

Detainees subject to assessment, care in detention and teamwork procedures should only be separated in exceptional circumstances which are clearly documented in separation records. (1.63)

Legal rights
5.28 The centre should explore the reasons for fewer non-English speaking detainees having a solicitor. (1.70)
5.29 The library should be stocked with up-to-date legal text books. (1.71)

Residential units
5.30 Graffiti in Bunting unit and across the centre should be removed, and dealt with swiftly if it reappears. (2.7)

Staff‚Äďdetainee relationships
5.31 All staff should receive the training that helps them to recognise and respond appropriately to the particular vulnerabilities of a female detainee population, including in cultural awareness and the specific backgrounds and experiences of detainees. (2.13)
5.32 At least 60% of staff in direct contact with women detainees should be women. (2.14)
5.33 There should be sufficient staff on units at all times. Units should never be left without any staff presence. (2.15)

Equality and diversity
5.34 Strategic planning for diversity should consider the specific needs of the population at Yarl’s Wood, set objectives and clearly set out how these will be achieved. (2.19, repeated recommendation 2.24)
5.35 Diversity monitoring should facilitate the identification and investigation of trends in detainee outcomes across all the protected characteristics. (2.20, repeated recommendation 2.25)
5.36 All detainees who identify as having a disability should be assessed and receive necessary support while at the centre, including the assistance of a paid detainee carer if required. (2.26)

5.37 The food menu and the range of goods available for detainees to purchase should reflect the diverse needs of the population. (2.86)

5.38 Information should be displayed to remind detainees of safe working protocols when using computers that are used by other people. (3.7)
5.39 Managers should observe training activities to assure the quality of the training delivered by tutors, visiting staff and volunteers. (3.14)
5.40 More paid work opportunities should be made available for male detainees on the family unit. (3.17)
5.41 The librarian should be qualified in library management. (3.21)

5.42 The visits hall play area should contain a good range of toys and games for children of all ages. (4.5)

Removal and release
5.43 Links with a broad range of community organisations should be developed, including genderspecific services. Centre staff should work closely with these organisations to address the support needs of detainees who have experienced abuse, rape, violence or other forms of exploitation. (4.16, repeated recommendation 4.31)
5.44 Only detainees who volunteer to do so should be placed on a reserve list. (4.17)

Examples of good practice
5.45 The immigration enforcement team ran drop-in surgeries three times a week to answer detainees’ queries. The team used laptops during the surgeries to access their casework information database. This enabled detainees to receive prompt updates on developments in their cases. (1.84)
5.46 The psychological wellbeing service provided an impressive range of support to help improve the wellbeing and resilience of detainees, providing a calm and therapeutic environment. (2.78)