Yarl’s Wood: Theresa May’s Home Office rebuked over Serco contract

National Audit Office finds contracts 'did not meet needs' of vulnerable migrant detainees

Credit: Darren Johnson/iDJ Photography

Women migrants held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre are handcuffed for hospital visits at a growing rate, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The number of women taken to hospital for treatment in handcuffs rose to 11 per cent in the period October 2015 and April 2016, up from 3 per cent for the same period the year before.

The report criticised government contracts handed to private companies to run the scandal-prone detention centre, though some progress was also recorded.

Theresa May’s Home Office and NHS England were rebuked for new contracts, given to Serco and G4S respectively, to run Yarl’s Wood’s residential and health services,  which ‘did not initially meet the needs of the vulnerable population detained there’.

As the report says:

‘Despite both NHS England and the Home Office having time to prepare for the new contracts, some of the problems that arose were foreseeable, and had been identified by previous inspectorate reports.’

It notes that 35 per cent of recommendations from a 2015 inspection have not been carried out, though there have been improvements to healthcare facilities, gender balance of staff and adult safeguarding.

However, the NAO said:

‘G4S has been slow to meet its contractual obligations for training. It was required to provide training to all staff at Yarl’s Wood on mental health issues.

Training was offered to Serco staff in April 2015, seven months after the start of the contract, but Serco were not able to take it up until October 2015.’

The report notes the serious nature of the risks involved, as ‘residents may not speak English, and may be unwilling to complain from a fear that raising a complaint may have an impact on their immigration case’.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today:

‘It is important that services for vulnerable people, like those at Yarl’s Wood, are delivered ‘right first time’ and this did not happen at Yarl’s Wood.

We do though give credit for the work that is now taking place to address the problems.’

Yarl’s Wood can house up to 410 residents and saw 3,969 people from 111 countries pass through its gates in 2015.

Serco costs the Home Office an estimated £8.8 million per year to run services at the centre, while G4S gets an annual fee of £1.2 million.

See: Ask refugees if Theresa May offers ‘a safe pair of hands’

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