Brook House IRC Findings
G4S, which runs Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), recently published my and Ed Marsden’s report of our independent investigation into concerns about Brook House. The report was commissioned in the wake of a BBC Panorama broadcast which showed detainees in the IRC being verbally and physically abused by staff.
Private companies and charities which provide public services, such as the Brook House IRC, are the subject of increasing public interest and concern. When things go wrong or allegations are made about such services, providers often become the subject of scrutiny by government, parliament, and the media, as well as the courts. There is an expectation that allegations and concerns will be thoroughly investigated in an independent fashion.
Investigations such as ours into Brook House, and our previous investigation into Yarl’s Wood IRC, run by Serco Group Plc, are complicated undertakings. They need to be done with care and thoroughness. Spending a significant amount of time in the IRCs, talking to staff and detainees and experiencing the daily life and management arrangements, was essential to truly understand the cultural, managerial and other issues at play.
At Brook House, we found weaknesses in management arrangements and processes including in relation to the training, appraisal and development of staff and the governance oversight of the use of force. But our investigation highlighted once again that adherence to systems and processes and formal reporting arrangements is not the full answer to developing and maintaining an appropriate culture and correct behaviours by staff.
Managers need to ensure that they are visible and take the time to engage with their staff informally. They need to be seen as approachable by and supportive of their staff. They need to model the caring and respectful behaviour they expect of their staff. These are key factors in encouraging an open and transparent culture. Without such a culture, managers run the risk of not knowing what is going on in their organisation, and of staff failing to report matters of concern, including poor behaviours by other members of staff.
This was a lesson we also took from our investigations into the Jimmy Savile affair and into allegations of abuse at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre
The need for managers to be engaged with their staff and for them to encourage an open and transparent culture, and to check any inappropriate behaviours at an early stage is all the more necessary in a closed institution such as an Immigration Removal Centre.