Welfare contract at new Family Unit awarded, as Tinsley gets ready to hold children once more
Comment – Government awards contract for welfare services in Tinsley House Family Unit to G4S
The appointment of G4S as the new welfare provider at Tinsley House Family Unit when it opens later this year, detaining families with children before their removal from the UK, raises serious questions about the Government's duty of care to the most vulnerable.
Last year, the closure of Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation and the news that families and children would instead be held at Tinsley House detention centre, near Gatwick airport, was met with widespread criticism from civil society and children’s charities, including from Barnardo's, who had previously delivered welfare services at Cedars. The move was heralded as a retrograde step after the commitments made by the coalition government to end the detention of children, in May 2010.
While the numbers of children held for immigration purposes has declined significantly since 2010, there is almost universal consensus that detention is never in the best interests of the child, and as such the opening of pre-departure accommodation within the grounds of a detention centre is an extremely worrying development. AVID believes that children should never be held behind bars for immigration purposes.
The award of this contract comes in the same week as the government has backtracked on its promise to accept child refugees under the Dubs Amendment, and only a year after commitments were made to reduce the numbers of vulnerable people in UK detention centres.
AVID is deeply concerned by these developments, coming shortly after the publication of new policy guidance to reduce the numbers of vulnerable people in detention. It is unclear what type of welfare services will be provided in the new facility.
Ali McGinley, Director, said: “Children are arguably the most vulnerable of all, and at a time when the damage caused by immigration detention is now widely recognised, it is difficult to comprehend why children will now once again be held behind bars, at a hugely sensitive and difficult time, in an environment completely at odds with their welfare needs. This seems incompatible with the detention reform agenda and the commitments made in January 2016 to reduce the detention of vulnerable people”.