Charity blasts ‘blatant disregard’ of detained children’s welfare needs

    Children detained in an immigration removal centre are yet to
    have their welfare needs assessed – a year after the government
    announced the policy.

    The admission by the Home Office that it has failed to assess a
    single child was attacked as showing indifference to children’s
    needs by the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees.

    When the policy was introduced in December 2003 the Home Office
    promised that the welfare and educational needs of any child
    detained at Dungavel in Scotland for 21 days would be assessed to
    ensure their needs were met.

    The plan was to roll out the assessments to other centres with
    children, Oakington in Cambridgeshire and Tinsley House at
    Gatwick.

    In November 2004, a report by the chief inspector of prisons,
    Anne Owers, found that procedures for safeguarding children at
    Oakington last summer were inadequate.

    Sarah Cutler, policy and research officer at Bail for
    Immigration Detainees, said: “With a report that damning you would
    expect the government to move quickly on carrying out
    assessments.”

    She added that the lack of assessments showed a “blatant
    disregard” of detained children’s needs. Without the information
    from these welfare assessments, the whole process of requiring
    ministerial authorisation to detain children for more than 28 days
    was flawed, she added.

    But the Home Office insisted that, despite the lack of
    assessments, any welfare concerns were drawn to
    the minister’s attention. A spokesperson said the government was
    working to “establish protocols”
    with South Lanarkshire social services for the assessments at
    Dungavel.

    Meanwhile, the chair of the Refugee Children’s Consortium
    claimed the Home Office was developing a pilot scheme to return
    home unaccompanied minors from Albania whose asylum claims had
    failed.

    Nancy Kelley said the government was also looking at running a
    pilot to trace family members of unaccompanied minors from
    Bangladesh whose claims had failed.

    Although the consortium did not oppose the principle of
    returning unaccompanied minors, Kelley said it would not support
    such a policy under the current system of assessing claims, which
    is “particularly poor in regards to unaccompanied children”.

    Currently, the government grants leave to remain to
    unaccompanied minors whose claims fail until they are 18 and then
    deports them.

     

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