Skip to navigation

press releases

Select Topic:

Select Year:

Select Month:

Select Nation:

UK map

Barnardo’s publishes ‘lessons learned’ briefing on the new family returns process

Release Date: 28 Apr 2014

As the Government seeks to enshrine the new family returns process onto the statute books as part of the 2014 Immigration Bill, Barnardo’s is publishing a ‘ Lessons learned’ briefing.

Drawing on their unique experience of providing welfare and social care services to families within the Home Office’s pre-departure accommodation, Cedars: Two years on identifies what is working and what can be improved.

The charity finds that overall the new system has considerably improved the experience of children and families in the ‘ensured return’ part of the immigration process. The time families spend in pre-departure accommodation is limited to 72 hours (or in exceptional circumstances with ministerial approval, a maximum of a week) and the numbers of children held prior to removal has drastically reduced (from 1,120 children in 2009 to 90 in Cedars in 2012-13).

Despite the progress, there is still more to do to improve the Families Returns Process and the wider asylum and immigration system for children and their parents. The charity has highlighted in particular concerns where children are being separated from their parentsfor the purposes of immigration control. The charity is also concerned about the arrest and escort of families to and from Cedars; and the area of non-compliant behaviour management; and in regards to the number of families for whom Cedars is not the ‘final stage of the journey’.

To better protect the welfare of these vulnerable children and their families, Barnardo’s recommends that:

  • Arresting officers should only wear personal protective clothing where risk assessments indicate that this is necessary to protect themselves or others. Where possible, officers should not wear uniform, and should transport families in unmarked vehicles.
  • The Home Office should put in place a specialist escort team specifically for family returns. This team should include in-country and overseas escorts; and be fully trained in safeguarding and working with children and families.
  • Physical intervention should not be used with children or pregnant women except to prevent harm to self or others. 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 continuum of physical intervention, and be underpinned by shared training to promote consistency of practice. The behaviour management policy should be issued for public consultation.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alison Worsley, Deputy Director of Strategy at Barnardo’s comments:

The Government has made significant improvements in the way that children and families are treated within the asylum process. The days when more than a thousand children were held for indefinite periods in removal centres such as Yarl’s Wood have now gone.

However, there is still much work to do to improve the Family Returns Process and the wider immigration process. We ask the Government to live up to its moral responsibility to some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and move quickly to implement Barnardo’s recommendations.

Notes to editors

  1. Cedars is a purpose-built centre used to accommodate families in the last 72 hours before the flight back to their country of return.
  2. The Immigration Bill 2014, currently in the final stage of passage through parliament, will place core aspects of the family returns process on the statute books for the first time.
  3. Barnardo’s has been running the family support, welfare and social work services in Cedars since the first family arrived in September 2011. Our decision to work at Cedars goes right back to our core purpose; to support the most vulnerable children in the UK. We are not involved in the operational aspects of the accommodation, including security and removal.
  4. Barnardo’s has advised on the design, look and feel of the pre-departure accommodation.  Our work in Cedars day-to-day is aimed at ensuring children are safeguarded and making their stay as family-friendly as possible by providing practical and emotional support to help families prepare for their return.  Barnardo’s Training and Consultancy is also used to train Home Office and sub-contracted staff working within Cedars on how to safeguard children and work with vulnerable families.
  5. Barnardo’s involvement in Cedars is conditional on a number of standards being met by the Home Office and its sub-contractors; these are built into our grant agreement. These conditions are termed ‘red lines’ and are monitored on a weekly basis by senior staff. Any concerns are addressed with the Home Office at the appropriate level and escalated to ministers as necessary. Barnardo’s has already spoken out publicly twice, when a family stayed between two and 27 minutes longer than the one week maximum, and on  concern over use of force with the UK Border Agency.
  6. Barnardo’s believes Cedars should be used as a last resort. It continues to lobby the Government over the wider immigration and asylum process.

« Back to press releases