Beds, Herts & Bucks

Yarl's Wood: Report finds no 'endemic culture of abuse'

Yarl's Wood detention centre Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Yarl's Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families facing deportation

There are "serious staffing concerns" at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre but "not an endemic culture of abuse", a report has found.

Commissioned by operators Serco, investigators found serious cases of inappropriate behaviour and mistreatment of residents but said this was not widespread.

It criticised staffing, training and a shortage of female officers.

Serco said it was already implementing "operational improvements"

Yarl's Wood holds more than 350 detainees, most of them single women, who are waiting for their immigration status to be resolved.

The report, which looked at the overall culture and practices at the centre, was commissioned following allegations of abuse.

Image caption The report found "serious concerns with staffing arrangements including capacity, training, and an inadequate proportion of female officers"

It was carried out by former barrister Kate Lampard and Ed Marsden from 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".

Individual allegations have been dealt with separately through established Serco and Home Office procedures

Ms Lampard said the "principal concerns are about staffing levels" which "inevitably present risks for [residents']" and the report makes 35 recommendations for improvement.

"These recommendations will ensure improved care of residents and support of staff at Yarl's Wood," she said.

Areas requiring improvement include access to outside space, the availability of education programmes, and policies surrounding raising concerns and whistle blowing.

Serco chief executive, Rupert Soames, said the investigation would "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."

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