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Detention Centres: Children

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his assessment is of progress made in improving provision for families with children at immigration removal centres; and how much has been spent on making such improvements in the last 12 months. (310109)

[holding answer 12 January 2010]: We take the welfare of children in our care very seriously and are proud of the investment made to improve services at Yarl’s Wood over the last couple of years, the main centre for holding families with children. These include:

A dedicated Ofsted inspected school delivering 30 hours per week of tuition by qualified teachers for children aged five-16 years.

A crèche staffed seven days a week from nine-five by appropriately qualified child care professionals for children under school age.

Professional supervision and support for teaching staff, in the form of oversight from the head teacher of another establishment.

Establishment of a softer and more child-focused reception area and further provision of age-appropriate activities such as a bouncy castle, and a library of games and toys for use in the children’s rooms.

Relocation of the youth club to a larger room with access to grassed outside play area.

The introduction of a fortnightly children’s forum and development of dedicated children’s complaints forms.

The provision of a midwife, healthcare visitor, paediatric nurse and child counselling services.

The improvements we have made have been considered and acknowledged by the likes of the Children’s Commissioner for England, the Independent Monitoring Board and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

At the same time, we have recently conducted an internal review of the services provided at other centres where children may be detained. This highlighted a number of areas where improvements need to be made at Tinsley House. A programme of improvement has commenced, and while this is being undertaken, we have taken the decision to reduce the maximum period of stay for families with children from 72 hours to 24 hours.

Services provided for children are funded within the operating contracts for centres, the value of which is commercially confidential. It is therefore not possible to provide a figure on how much has been spent on improvements in the last 12 months.