Amongst the tragic litany of human rights failings at Yarl’s Wood comes this news release I received from Clare Sambrook today. She attached a PDF file of the Executive summary of an independent review by Befordshire local safeguarding children board.

Clare’s copy follows:

The report exposes litany of failings by: Local authority managers, Local authority social workers Local police, Local GP UKBA’s ‘Children’s Champion’ and Serco.

Commenting on the report, Malcolm Stevens, former senior government advisor on Social Services said: ‘Yarl’s Wood failed these children. Here is evidence of whole system failure in and around Yarl’s Wood. This calls into question whether the children there now are being properly looked after. It calls into question the competence of UKBA to conduct the current review into arrangements for children. The government urgently needs to appoint someone with independence, experience and professional competence to run the Review into ending child detention.’
Malcolm Stevens, Justicecare Solutions.

Among the failings:

The Local Authority learned of evidence that children below the age of criminal responsibility engaged in sexual activity but failed to carry out complex enquiries in respect of two families, under section 47, Children Act, 1989.

The local authorities’ managers and social workers misunderstood the significance which should attach to the age of criminal responsibility

They misunderstood the concept of “consent” believing in error that such young children could be consensually involved in sexual activity.

They failed to investigate concerns that older children may also have been involved in the sexual abuse of a child, and that these older young people might pose a continuing threat to other detainees.

The local authority social workers:
failed to interview the mother of a child said to have been abused;
failed to liaise adequately with other agencies;
failed to carry out appropriate checks with other localities;
failed adequately to secure police involvement in the enquiries.

The police:
inappropriately terminated their inquiries without reference to specialist child protection officers.

The GP failed to recognise that this was a child protection situation, failed to ensure that the child was seen by a paediatrician.

UKBA’s ‘Children’s Champion’ failed to challenge the decisions made by local statutory agencies.

UKBA failed to brief ministers properly: ‘UKBA provided information, on the basis of which a ministerial decision was made affecting the continued detention of children,’ says the report: ‘Although that factual information included reference to the incident leading to this review, there was no evaluation of the impact that this incident had on the propriety of detention.’

Children were failed by the UKBA / Bedfordshire Council arrangements for safeguarding: ‘This Service did not challenge the weaknesses and confusion inherent in the approach of the local authorities and GP,’ says the report. ‘This raises concerns about the effectiveness of these arrangements and suggests the role of the workers within the Service should be reviewed.’

Vulnerable children fell through the gap in regulatory arrangements. ‘. . It appears that no single agency has an adequate overarching responsibility for regulation of services to children in immigration detention,’ says the report.

The report makes stringent and detailed recommendations whose severity highlights the degree and multiplicity of failures of care in this case.

Eg SERCO should:

a) ensure that it can discharge its specific duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, in a way that is not solely reliant on other agencies, and includes an assessment of a child’s welfare needs and any risks posed to or by that child.

b) review arrangements for joint working with Bedford Borough Council to ensure that there are clear systems for feedback to residents of the IRC detained with children, the outcome of any Bedford Borough Council involvement, including options for taking the matter further if the resident remains dissatisfied.

c) review the form and use of Keeping Children Safe from Harm documents. The review should take account of the Common Assessment Framework.

SERCO Healthcare should ensure that medical practitioners and other health staff providing services at the IRC are aware of their responsibility to ensure they are familiar with and follow local child protection arrangements including the need to consult a paediatric specialist.

END CHILD DETENTION NOW

End of copy.

According to a spokesperson from the charity “Refugee and Migrant Justice”  recent changes in the U.K “Legal Aid” system are putting the lives of up to ten thousand asylum seekers (including hundreds of children) at risk:

“We are facing possible closure as a result of a new system of payment of legal aid whereby payments are only made when stages are closed – which in our case is on average 6 months after work is started and can take up to two years. We are not asking for more money, just prompt payment of what we are due…

…the possible closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice will affect 10 000 asylum seekers in the UK; they will be left without legal representation, and may be forced to return to persecution, torture, and the threat of death. 900 of our clients at the moment are children.

We have been in private touch with the new Ministers but, despite some sympathy in the Home Office from Damian Green have just received a negative response from a junior Ministry of Justice Minister. So we are launching a public campaign.

We managed to get a letter of support out yesterday, signed by various public figures, and hope that this will put some pressure on the government. However, that alone is not enough. We are encouraging people to write to Ken Clarke in protest at our closure; we also want to raise awareness of the situation as widely as possible, in as many different sectors as we can.”

Possible closure of the charity looms: “As a result of a new system of payment of legal aid whereby payments are only made when stages are closed – which in our case is on average 6 months after work is started and can take up to two years”.

“We are not asking for more money” says the charity “just prompt payment of what we are due”.  

Who will be affected: (statement by Refugee and Migrant Justice)

Asylum seekers who have fled their homes and families in fear of persecution or death. Home Office officials often fail to identify asylum seekers in need of protection, including those with additional vulnerabilities, such as victims of torture, rape or trafficking. Thousands of asylum seekers are detained each year having committed no crime. They are given no indication of the length of detention and can be kept for months or years.

Children who have travelled to the U.K with or without their families. Many children are treated as adults by the Home Office. Even those who are accepted as children can face an intimidating culture of disbelief when telling their story and are interviewed without legal representation or an independent adult present. Refugee and Migrant Justice fights to help them secure protection and a real chance of a future. The Government has announced that it will end the detention of children, but many will continue to be detained while it is deciding what alternative arrangements it will put in place.

Victims of trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation. Refugee and Migrant Justice works to make sure victims of trafficking are given the legal protection they deserve and campaign to stop victims of trafficking being prosecuted for ‘crimes’ committed under duress. 

For more information contact Refugee and Migrant Justice. 

Read these blog posts alongside this piece: Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre and the 2010 hunger strike.

Email interview I conducted with a Home Office spokesperson earlier this year, in which Meg Hillier describes her views on the legal assistance available to asylum seekers and their families.