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Questions for Minister on future plans for children being removed from UK

September 8, 2016 10:38 PM
By suzanne

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary remain adamant that the facility at the pre departure centre, Cedars, should not be closing, and should remain, as originally planned to be somewhere for families with children to have safe respite and be prepared for an involuntary return to their country of origin.

Barnardos have done an excellent job in making sure that the children had the right care in the right environment at this very traumatic time in their lives. We understand that they do not wish to be involved in the proposal that the families with children are to be in a detention centre, and why, as in their media statement. So, we have deep concerns about what the arrangements will be for child appropriate care.

We are therefore challenging the Minister for Home Department with the 15 points as follows.


Taking information from a visit to Cedars, and reports with recommendations published by Barnardos, we are asking the following :

  1. Where are you taking advice from in the setting up of the proposed new unit at Tinsley House to make sure that the needs of these vulnerable children is central to the operation of the unit ?
  2. That the children will not be cared for in any way by staff in security style uniform.
  3. When the arrests are made where the families are living, arresting officers should only wear personal protective clothing where risk assessments indicate that this is absolutely necessary to protect themselves or others. Transport for families should be in unmarked vehicles.
  4. It will allow escorts to build on their training as they will be applying it on a regular basis, working solely with families. These escorts should be used for all ensured returns, including same day returns.
  5. There needs to be clarity and consistency around managing non-compliant behaviour. The Home Office should develop a behaviour management policy where the emphasis is on techniques that minimise the likelihood of using physical intervention, and use it only as a last resort. The policy must address the definitions and range of physical intervention, and be underpinned by shared training to promote consistency of practice.
  6. Children should never be separated from their parent or parents for the purposes of immigration control. Children should only be separated from their parent or parents if there is a safeguarding or welfare concern.
  7. Any potential family split should be included as part of the return plan or contingency, authorised by the Minister and scrutinised by the Independent Family Returns Panel. There should be clear plans in place for reunification, and any split should take place for the shortest possible time. Family splits should be clearly documented and the outcome reviewed by all agencies as part of 'lessons learned' meetings.
  8. Training of existing staff at Tinsley House and new staff to work with the children is crucial. Also all agencies involved need to have development time together and work around a set of values of putting the child and family at the centre and meeting their needs while they're there.
  9. There are currently large indoor and outdoor play areas with toys, games and play equipment suitable for toddlers and older children. There are also facilities for those with disabilities. These facilities must be provided at Tinsley House.
  10. There is a currently a library with a wide range of DVDs, books, audio books and music. These materials are available in other languages as well as English. There are also computers with some access to the internet, fax, exercise facilities, and pastoral support, prayer room and multi-faith facilities. There is a need for these facilities to be available to the families without the need to be part of the rest of Tinsley House.
  11. Most children arriving at Cedars have not been prepared for the possibility of return to another country, and are dealing with shock and a sense of loss for their current life, as well as trying to understand what life will be like for them in a different country. Barnardos did good work in this preparation, ways to replicate it must be found.
  12. Parents are often anxious as well, and may not be able to provide positive parental engagement with their children because of the situation they are in; some may be receiving emotional support from their children. Provision for the parents in this situation is crucial.
  13. Barnardo's provided a package of support tailored to the family to meet both their basic needs and address their emotional well-being. They provided clothing if families need it, especially that which is appropriate to the climate to which they are returning.
  14. A nurse made arrangements for necessary injections, and all families were provided with mosquito nets if relevant to the country they were returning to.
  15. Every family is provided with their own tailored country information pack. This includes information about the airport, local hotels if needed on arrival, education provision, support organisations, taxi and transport information, and the current weather and currency information. A hardship fund was established so that no family was left destitute. This must continue.

Another area that concerns us that a family being taken to the pre departure centre at Cedars has not been the end of the process for many families. It has not been the last resort. Family Engagement Managers working with families throughout the returns process will have no doubt contributed to the lower than expected use of Cedars, and a greater take up of voluntary returns. Every effort must be made that for families released into the community, there are not rearrests at a later date causing trauma to the whole family as well as a use of resources that is not constructive.

Finally, Cedars' stands for the principles staff worked to - compassion, empathy, dignity, approachability, respect and support. Every one of these principles needs to be taken to any new arrangement at Tinsley House, put into practice, and monitored.