An independent report published into the culture and practices at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (‘Yarl’s Wood’) has found there is not an endemic culture of abuse nor a hidden problem of inappropriate behaviour by staff at the centre. The report, commissioned by Serco following a series of allegations, did however find serious concerns with staffing arrangements including capacity, training, and an inadequate proportion of female officers to care for women at the centre, and has made 35 recommendations for improvement.
The investigation, by Kate Lampard CBE and Ed Marsden from Verita, highlighted both the challenges of running Yarl’s Wood and the concerns and experiences of the residents living there whilst their immigration applications are processed.
Further specific issues identified by the investigating team as needing improvement, include:
- the physical environment and access to outside space;
- the availability of meaningful activities and education programmes for residents;
- weaknesses in safeguarding arrangements and policies;
- inconsistent policies and underdeveloped practice in relation to raising concerns and whistle blowing;
- the choice and quality of the food available; and
- training, development and appraisal of staff.
In addition the report makes recommendations aimed at ensuring greater transparency and openness about Yarl’s Wood, noting how there is a disparity between perceptions and the reality of how the centre is managed and run.
Kate Lampard, who led the independent investigation team, said:
“Our investigations led us to conclude that while there have been some serious incidents of inappropriate behaviour, and individual cases of mistreatment and abuse of residents by staff, these have been investigated by Serco and such behaviour is not widespread or endemic at Yarl’s Wood. We found no evidence of any unreported incidents.”
Our principal concerns are about staffing levels and staffing arrangements at the centre. Given the needs of the residents of Yarl’s Wood, inadequate staffing arrangements inevitably present risks for their well-being and welfare. We have made 35 recommendations aimed at addressing our concerns. We expect that, when implemented, these recommendations will ensure improved care of residents and support of staff at Yarl’s Wood.”