This article is part two of our in depth look at the findings of the Brook House Inquiry, following our previous article last week. In this piece, we will highlight the remaining recommendations made by the Chair of the Inquiry, Kate Eves.
We will also examine what steps the Home Office has taken to address the issues identified in the report, with a particular focus on safeguarding and oversight. Finally, we will also give our opinion on the recommendations made in the report.
For an overview of the Brook House Inquiry, and the first half of Kate Eve’s recommendations, see part 1 of our article here.
For now, keep reading for the second half of Eve’s recommendations below.
Brook House Inquiry recommendations
Recommendation 17: Urgent improvement of use of force reviews
The Home Office must ensure, as a matter of urgency, that training is delivered on how to conduct an effective use of force incident debrief, ensuring that issues of detained person and staff welfare, as well as training needs, are covered. The training must be mandatory for all immigration removal centre contractor employees who conduct such reviews and those who manage them.
The Home Office must also require that use of force incidents be reviewed, at a minimum, at the following levels:
- Within 36 hours of each use of force incident, the Use of Force Coordinator must conduct a thorough incident review, ensuring that all documentation and footage are collated and preserved, and with a view to taking emergency action in instances of unlawful or inappropriate force. On a weekly basis, all use of force incidents must be reviewed (including all necessary paperwork and available video footage) at a formal meeting by the Use of Force Coordinator and a suitable manager in order to review each incident and to identify any issues or further action required.
- On a monthly basis, immigration removal centre contractor senior management must arrange meetings with other stakeholders (including detained people and representatives of non-governmental organisations) to review use of force trends.
- Periodically, the Home Office (or its Professional Standards Unit if the Home Office considers it more appropriate) must review use of force at Brook House and across the immigration detention estate, to identify trends and to direct the implementation of any changes and improvements that are required.
This review process must be reflected in the new detention services order regarding the use of force – see Recommendation 15 – in respect of which additional, regular (at least annual) training must then be provided.
Recommendation 18: Urgent guidance in relation to food and fluid refusal
The Home Office must, as a matter of urgency, update Detention Services Order 03/2017: Care and Management of Detained Individuals Refusing Food and/or Fluid, to ensure that it deals with:
- food and fluid refusal being clearly and directly linked to consideration of the Rule 35 process and whether a detained person is defined as an ‘adult at risk’;
- the consideration by the healthcare provider at each immigration removal centre, upon an incidence of food and fluid refusal occurring, of assessments of mental capacity, of mental state, and under Rule 35, and the conduct of these where indicated, as well as ensuring compliance with Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention policy and making sure that decisions made in relation to these are recorded;
- the notification to the Home Office of the numbers of detained people refusing food and fluid, and the reasons for such refusal, on a monthly basis (in the same way that incidents of self-harm are notified); and
- the monitoring by the Home Office of the compliance by healthcare providers with Detention Services Order 03/2017 and the numbers of detained people refusing food and fluid, and the reasons for such refusal, in order to identify any patterns of concern and take appropriate action.
The Home Office must ensure that mandatory training about the application of the updated detention services order takes place on a regular (at least annual) basis for all detention staff and healthcare staff, as well as those responsible for managing them. Attendance must be mandatory for all staff working in immigration removal centres and those responsible for managing them. The training must be subject to an assessment.
In anticipation of the update to Detention Services Order 03/2017, the Home Office must issue an immediate instruction to communicate this clarification to those operating immigration detention centres.
Recommendation 19: Guidance and training for healthcare staff on the use of force
The Home Office must ensure that guidance is issued to healthcare staff in immigration removal centres clarifying their role in use of force incidents. It must liaise as necessary with NHS England and any relevant medical regulators.
The Home Office must ensure that mandatory training is introduced for healthcare staff, and those responsible for managing them, on their roles and responsibilities in relation to planned and unplanned use of force (liaising with NHS England and any other relevant parties). The training must be subject to an assessment.
Recommendation 20: Updating guidance regarding ‘fit to fly and fit for detention’ letters
The Home Office must review and update Detention Services Order 01/2016: The Protection, Use and Sharing of Medical Information Relating to People Detained Under Immigration Powers, to ensure that guidance given to GPs working in the immigration detention estate in relation to their duties and responsibilities in writing ‘fit to fly and fit for detention’ letters is clear. It must liaise with NHS England and any relevant medical regulators as necessary.
The Home Office must ensure that training about the updated guidance takes place on a regular (at least annual) basis for GPs working in the immigration detention estate and those responsible for managing them. The training must be subject to an assessment. The Home Office must monitor compliance with this updated guidance at least annually.
Recommendation 21: Ensuring effective communication of medical information
The Home Office must review and update Detention Services Order 04/2020: Mental Vulnerability and Immigration Detention: Non-Clinical Guidance to set out comprehensive guidance for detention and healthcare staff where there are concerns that a detained person is suffering mental ill health or lacks mental capacity. This must include an appropriate system for:
- the routine handover or sharing of relevant information between detention custody staff and healthcare staff (for example, in Security Information Reports and Anti-Bullying Support Plans); ● the identification and follow-up of missed medical appointments; ● the assessment of mental capacity where indicated; and
- mental health assessment where indicated. The Home Office must ensure that training about the updated guidance takes place on a regular (at least annual) basis for detention and healthcare staff, as well as those responsible for managing them. The training must be subject to an assessment.
Recommendation 22: Improving the handling and audit of healthcare complaints
The Home Office must review and update Detention Services Order 03/2015: Handling of Complaints to ensure that appropriate guidance is given to healthcare providers on the investigation and handling of complaints specific to the provision of healthcare in an immigration detention setting.
The Home Office must ensure that training about the updated guidance takes place on a regular (at least annual) basis for staff dealing with healthcare complaints, as well as those responsible for managing them. The training must be subject to an assessment.
Healthcare providers in immigration removal centres must ensure that all healthcare complaints are robustly investigated in accordance with the updated guidance. The methodology and outcomes must be clearly communicated, including to the detained person. They must also ensure that appropriate, regular (at least annual) training and guidance is provided to those holding responsibility for the investigation of healthcare complaints.
Recommendation 23: Ongoing assessment of staffing levels
The Home Office and contractors operating immigration removal centres must ensure that there is ongoing assessment of staffing levels (at least on a quarterly basis), so that the level of staff present within each centre is appropriate for the size and needs of the detained population.
The Home Office must also ensure that the detained population does not increase at any immigration centre unless staffing is at an adequate level.
Recommendation 24: Mandatory training for immigration removal centre staff
The Home Office, in conjunction with contractors, must ensure that all relevant immigration removal centre staff receive mandatory introductory and annual training on:
- mental health;
- race and diversity;
- a trauma-informed approach;
- their own resilience;
- drug awareness; and
- the purpose of immigration removal centres.
This training must include the perspectives of, or be conducted in consultation with, detained people.
The Home Office must also ensure, in conjunction with contractors, that new joiners must start on probation on completion of introductory training and be adequately supervised for a period of time as necessary to establish their competence to work independently.
Recommendation 25: Improving the visibility of senior managers within centres
Contractors operating immigration removal centres must ensure that senior managers are regularly present and visible within the immigration removal centre and are accessible to more junior detention staff.
Recommendation 26: Improving the visibility of Home Office staff
The Home Office must ensure that its staff are regularly present and visible within each immigration removal centre.
Recommendation 27: Developing a healthy culture among staff
Contractors operating immigration removal centres must develop and implement an action plan to ensure a safe and healthy staff culture in immigration removal centres. The action plan must address:
- the identification of and response to any sign of desensitisation among staff;
- training staff on coping mechanisms and secondary trauma awareness; and
- maintaining an appropriate balance between care and safety or security. The Home Office must regularly monitor each contractor’s compliance with their action plans.
Recommendation 28: Action to address barriers to making complaints
The Home Office and its contractors operating immigration removal centres must take steps to identify and address the barriers to making complaints that are faced by detained people, including a fear of repercussions. This must include training for staff on their role in enabling detained people to overcome these barriers.
Recommendation 29: Improving investigations by the Home Office Professional Standards Unit
The Home Office must update Detention Services Order 03/2015: Handling of Complaints to clarify that, in investigations carried out by the Professional Standards Unit into allegations of serious misconduct against contractor staff:
- Professional Standards Unit investigators must carry out interviews themselves and not rely on contractors to do so.
- All staff against whom allegations are made must be invited to interview.
- Where there are inconsistencies between any accounts given of events, any evidence relating to those accounts (including footage and documentation) obtained by an investigating officer must be shown to the complainant and to the subject of the complaint, prior to reaching a conclusion.
- The Professional Standards Unit must be given information about previous complaints made against alleged perpetrators, including unsubstantiated complaints.
- Previous disciplinary action against alleged perpetrators must be taken into account.
- Investigators must look for evidence that is both supportive and undermining of the complaint.
- Full reports must be sent to complainants (and their solicitors if applicable).
- Investigation reports and/or outcome letters must be sent directly from the PSU to complainants (and their solicitors if applicable).
The Home Office Professional Standards Unit must ensure that training about the updated guidance takes place on a regular (at least annual) basis for staff dealing with investigations, as well as those responsible for managing them. The training must be subject to an assessment. The Professional Standards Unit must also review the training provided to investigators and ensure that investigators receive regular and adequate training, from a variety of perspectives, on issues including:
- the nature of immigration removal centres and issues that may arise;
- obstacles that detained people may face in making complaints;
- interviewing vulnerable witnesses; and
- use of force and assessing reasonableness of force.
Recommendation 30: Improving the independence of the Home Office Professional Standards Unit
The Home Office must:
- take steps to enhance the independence of the Professional Standards Unit from the Home Office and the perception of this independence; and
- increase the seniority of the Head of the Professional Standards Unit so that they are closer in status to the Heads of the relevant Home Office Immigration Enforcement teams.
Recommendation 31: Improving the process for and response to whistleblowing
The Home Office must update Detention Services Order 03/2020: Whistleblowing – The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 to require contractors that run immigration removal centres to:
- have a whistleblowing policy and procedure that is specific to the immigration detention environment;
- ensure that the whistleblowing mechanism is not limited to a hotline and allows for anonymous reporting of concerns;
- ensure that those who receive whistleblowing concerns have an understanding of immigration removal centres;
- take active steps to encourage staff to use whistleblowing processes, for reasons including those set out at paragraph 10 of Detention Services Order 03/2020; and
- ensure that whistleblowing concerns are investigated thoroughly by someone external to the immigration removal centre, and that the Home Office is informed of the nature of the concern and the investigation carried out.
The Home Office must ensure that training about the updated guidance takes place on a regular (at least annual) basis for staff dealing with whistleblowing, as well as those responsible for managing them. The training must be subject to an assessment.
Recommendation 32: Enhancing the role of the Independent Monitoring Boards
The government must:
- respond to and publish responses to all concerns raised by any Independent Monitoring Board regarding immigration removal centres;
- take steps without further delay to amend the Detention Centre Rules 2001, in so far as they govern Independent Monitoring Boards, in order to accurately reflect their current role; and
- consider whether to put the National Chair and Management Board of the Independent Monitoring Boards on a statutory footing.
Recommendation 33: Improving the investigation and reporting of HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Boards
HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Boards working within immigration removal centres must ensure that they have robust processes for:
- obtaining and reporting on an enhanced range of evidence and intelligence from detained people and those who represent or support them, staff and contractors, including that which is received outside of inspections or visits; and
- reporting on any concerns about the Home Office and contractors.
The reforms since Brook House abuse in 2017
The Home Office have stated that they have introduced reforms in IRC in the UK since 2017, including:
- Improved and rigorous training for all IRC staff on the use of force, with regular monitoring and reviews on staff and providers’ training.
- Introducing the Home Office Detention Gatekeeper to independently assess the suitability of those referred for detention.
- Case Progression Panels to consider whether continuing detention is appropriate, including independent panel members.
- More Home Office staff in IRCs, and a higher ratio of provider staff to detained individuals.
- Putting an immediate stop to three people occupying rooms designed for two.
- Reinforcing the use of whistleblowing mechanisms.
- Rigorous oversight of our contractors ensuring any complaints, incidents or use of force are properly investigated by senior managers.
- Improved training and support for staff working with vulnerable people.
The Home Office have expressed that they have implemented steps across IRC to improve oversight of providers. They also stated that they closely monitor performance of their providers across IRCs and accept nothing but the highest standards. From Brook House’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in 2022, it was expressed that residents at Brook House were generally within a safe environment, suggesting that standards have improved since the report was commissioned.
The IMB went on to say that there had been a general improvement in governance and monitoring of safeguarding, with more attention to detail in management of the use of force.
What safeguarding and oversight measures are in place at the Home Office?
The Home Office have stated that there are robust safeguarding measures in place to ensure anyone in IRC is treated with dignity and has access to the support they need.
The Home Office went on to express that all IRCs have dedicated health facilities run by doctors and nurses commissioned by NHS England and delivered to the equivalent standards as community health services.
The Home Office have stated that they have dedicated welfare teams in all sites who can promptly deal with any instances of mental health or illness.
The Home Office have expressed that staff at all IRC are trained to identify and prevent the risk of suicide and self-harm. Notices in various languages are displayed in all IRC, to encourage any concerns about a fellow detained person to be brought to the attention of a member of staff. The staff are rigorously trained to ensure the safety of residents, including on the appropriate use of force.
The Home Office have stated that force must only be used as a last resort, and for the shortest possible time. Physical force will be used only after a thorough risk assessment and in consideration of an individual’s personal circumstances.
Our Solicitor’s thoughts
I do think recommendations by Kate Eves are good enough to tackle issues outlined in the Brook House Inquiry. Hopefully we will see positive changes to how all IRCs are run.
However, I have always felt, and still believe following the Brook House Inquiry, that detention is not appropriate to maintaining immigration controls by removing those who have no right to remain in the UK. I have always felt that there are other alternatives to detention such as the enforcement of reasonable and regular reporting to an immigration officer.
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