Barnardo’s slogan is ‘we believe in children’. So why is Britain’s biggest children’s charity helping lock them up?
Barnardo’s provides ‘welfare services’ at the G4S-run migrant family prison named Cedars. The government says it has ended child detention, but that’s a lie: they have just changed the name. Cedars, in Pease Pottage, Sussex is officially called “pre-departure accommodation”, and has a playground and a nice garden. But since it was opened in August 2011, more than 39 migrant families, with 84 children, have been imprisoned there.
What goes on behind the trees at Cedars?
When Barnardo’s signed the Cedars contract, it promised to ‘speak out’ and withdraw its services if certain “red lines” were broken. These included:
3. No family should be held at Cedars more than once or for longer than the one week.
4. Tinsley House should not be used as an overflow for holding families if Cedars is full.
5. The level of force used with families on route to or from Cedars should be proportionate to their circumstances.
6. If staff members’ behaviour towards families and children raised any concerns, there should be an immediate review of personnel at Cedars. If the concerns are of a serious nature, Barnardo’s will speak out immediately. If the concerns go unaddressed, Barnardo’s will withdraw its services from Cedars.
All these conditions have been REPEATEDLY BROKEN. According to a new inspection report [pdf] by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons (23/10/2012) :
** Cedars staff have used “unacceptable force” with at least six families during the period of inspection.
** Force has been used with children too..
** In one case, staff assaulted a pregnant woman in a wheelchair and dragged another woman by her hair..
** Family members held in Cedars have self-harmed..
** The same families have been detained at Cedars repeatedly..
** Half (49%) of the families had no legal representation..
** Two members of staff have already been suspended for inappropriate behaviour..
** Unlike other prisons and detention centres, there are no clear rules about the use of force at Cedars.
Barnardo’s says it is in Cedars to help children and keep an eye on staff. In fact, it is an accomplice. Barnardo’s presence gives Cedars legitimacy and helps the government rebrand child detention. As the charity Medical Justice puts it
“they ruined the campaign to end the detention of children, which campaigners felt could be achievable as the government had already promised it.”
Must be the money
Barnardo’s has been struggling financially. The Cedars contract gave the charity a much-needed cash injection. The deal was brokered in 2011 by the new chief executive Anne Marie Carrie, whose last job was at Tory Kensington & Chelsea council. The previous boss had spoken out against child detention. Carrie saw that locking up children was good for business, and Barnardo’s principles would have to go.
In a statement announcing Barnardo’s decision to provide welfare services at Cedars in March 2011, Anne Marie Carrie said: “Barnardo’s decision to provide welfare and social care services to asylum seeking families at the new pre-departure accommodation goes back to our core purpose: supporting the most vulnerable children in the UK.” Setting out the charity’s “principles guiding its provision” at the centre, she added that she was “absolutely clear that if policy and practice fall short of safeguarding the welfare, dignity and respect of families, then Barnardo’s will raise concerns, will speak out and ultimately, if we have to, we will withdraw our services.” The has proven to be a LIE as Barnardo’s ‘red lines’ have been repeatedly breached, yet it is still providing its services at Cedars and legitimising the continued detention of children.
We know that a lot of decent people are still working at Barnardo’s. We call on them to help turn Barnardo’s from being part to the problem to part of the solution. If Barnardo’s pulls out of Cedars and speaks out about what has gone on there, it could be the breakthrough needed to end child detention for real.
** Pull out immediately from the Cedars contract.
** Help lift the lid on the reality of detention and deportation.
** If Anne Marie Carrie won’t do it, get a new boss.
For more information on Barnardo’s involvement in Cedars, see this collection of articles.