Forty one per cent of people detained in Dungavel felt unsafe according to a HMIP inspection report published today. A survey of the 82 people detained there at the time of the inspection in July this year was backed up by individual interviews in which people described the feelings of insecurity and lack of safety that came from being detained indefinitely, with no time limit. These feelings were exacerbated by being surrounded by others who were stressed and sometimes angry about their circumstances.
At the time of the inspection, 38% of people in the centre had been detained for more than 28 days, four people had been detained for between six and twelve months and two people had been detained for over a year.
The longest someone had been detained was 440 days.
The inspection report, like previous reports on Dungavel, praises the staff at the centre and the efforts they make to build respectful relationships with people detained there. However, the report notes that outcomes for ‘respect’ were worse than at the last inspection. This was due to the deterioration of the physical environment at the centre, the increasing shabbiness of the accommodation and the many areas in need of refurbishment and redecoration.
The report raises significant other concerns about detention at Dungavel. Issues highlighted include:
- Many people (39%) were transported to the centre at night for reasons of operational convenience rather than necessity, and over half of the people in detention taking part in the inspectors’ survey had spent over four hours in escort journeys to get to Dungavel. Half had problems on arrival and a third felt depressed or suicidal.
- 98 vulnerable adult care plans had been opened in the six months before the inspection but there were concerns about the management of these cases.
- There had been nine incidents of self-harm in the six months before the inspection and 44 ACDT cases had been opened (assessment care in detention and teamwork is the case management system for people at risk of self-harm). Most people were placed on ACDT because of the impact of detention on their wellbeing.
- Poor casework planning led to the inappropriate detention of an elderly disabled couple. Staff at the centre immediately assessed them as inappropriate for detention but it took five days for them to be released.
- In most of the rule 35 reports examined in detail by inspectors, the Home Office accepted evidence of torture but did not consider this to be sufficient to release people from detention.
- There remained concerns about the equality policy for women. Some women were subject to unwanted attention from men and the centre did not have a sufficiently well-developed policy to identify and meet the needs of women detained there.
- Dental care was significantly worse than at the previous inspection. This was no longer provided on site and waiting times had doubled. Appointments were frequently cancelled due to lack of escorting. This was described as ‘unacceptable’.
- Of 1,040 people who had left the Dungavel in the six months before the inspection, just 20% had been removed from the country. 43% were transferred to another centre and 37% were released into the community.
Overall, the inspectors make 34 recommendations for improvement to the Home Office and the Centre management, a number of which are repeated recommendations from their previous inspection.
Kate Alexander, director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, said:
“This inspection report makes clear that meaningful detention reform is vital. The inspectors are positive about staff at the centre and this confirms what people we visit tell us about their experience. Yet despite this, nearly half of the people detained at Dungavel feel unsafe because of the stress of indefinite detention, and some people are detained for very prolonged periods. The issues raised about women in detention echo our own disquiet about the vulnerability of women in a predominantly male centre. And there are continuing concerns about the detention of vulnerable people and the impact of detention on the health and wellbeing of the people affected. That just 20% of people leaving Dungavel are removed from the country shows once again that detention is ineffective as well as damaging.
The UK Government has said that it wishes to reduce both the scale and length of detention. It is clear what they need to do to achieve that. They must immediately introduce a 28 day time limit on detention, end the detention of vulnerable people and the support the development of a range of community based alternatives to detention.”