A new report has revealed there was no culture of abuse at the controversial Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre following a review of conditions at the site last year.
An investigation by operators Serco did, however, highlight some serious cases of inappropriate behaviour and mistreatment of detainees, criticising staffing, training and a shortage of female officers, but stated it was not a widespread problem.
Serco has responded by saying it would make improvements at the centre, just outisde Clapham, following allegations of verbal abuse of detainees. The first steps would be to increase staffing levels and recruit more female staff.
It said it would also review its recruitment procedures to ensure the “right people” were employed at the centre and provide specialist training for all staff.
In addition new menus would be introduced for detainees, following criticism over the quality of food served, along with body cameras for all front-line staff and multi-lingual kiosks for the detainees.
Yarl’s Wood, one of 11 detention centres in the country, holds more than 350 detainees, most single women, who are waiting for their immigration status to be resolved.
The report was carried out by consultants Verita who found “significant management challenges”, particularly “the demands of managing a highly distressed and vulnerable population”.
Their report concluded there was “not an endemic culture of abuse nor a hidden problem of inappropriate behaviour by staff” but found “serious concerns with staffing arrangements including capacity, training, and an inadequate proportion of female officers”.
A total of 35 recommendations were made for improvement to ensure better care of residents and support of staff. Areas requiring improvement included access to outside space, education programmes, and policies surrounding raising concerns and whistle blowing.
Rupert Soames, Serco’s chief executive, said: “The recommendations of the investigation will enable us to deliver a number of operational improvements, and we are already implementing many of them.
“Critically, the review repeats the finding of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons that there is not an abusive culture at Yarl’s Wood, and that the majority of the staff are sympathetic to the concerns and needs of residents and deal with them in a caring and supportive manner, often in very challenging circumstances.”