The immovable chair Posted February 3, 2016 by admin

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SDV volunteer coordinator, Shirley Gillan, blogs about the experience of Ernest who was bailed after being detained in Dungavel

Being held in detention shrinks a person’s world, but life after detention holds so many restrictions it can feel almost as confining.

Ernest was detained in Dungavel until last autumn, when he was released on bail to Section 4 support.  He was given a room in shared accommodation and an Azure card, which is topped up with £35 a week. No cash. At all. Just a card, similar to a gift card, usable only in certain shops and with limits – often as fickle as the check-out worker wants to make them – as to what can be bought with it.

Toys for example. Some won’t let you buy your child toys with it.

People feel humiliated in a busy queue when a shop assistant calls across the store to another, ‘ Can they buy this on this card?’ or argues that only  ‘Edible, essential items’ can be purchased. What about soap? Shampoo? Wash powder? Cleaning products? And how to afford it all anyway, on £5 a day?

Dignity is further damaged by regular property inspections and the approach taken by those who come to carry these out.

The other week a woman came to inspect Ernest’s flat.  She walked in to the kitchen and pointed at the table.  ‘Where’s the chair?’ she demanded.  Ernest looked at her.  She pointed again – ‘There should be a chair on that side of the table.’ Ernest explained that he had the chair in his bedroom.  ‘It needs to be here; it cannot be moved,’ she responded.

Ernest was confined in an immigration removal centre for months for no purpose at all – he was released to the community. He is now confined to a tiny, cashless existence, not allowed to work, unable to travel (you can’t use an Azure card on the bus), unable to choose where he shops and what he buys.

Or where to put his furniture.

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