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New family returns accommodation opened today

New family returns accommodation opened today

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 01 September 2011

The final stage in the government's pledge to end the detention of children for immigration purposes was completed today, with the opening of new pre departure accommodation for families required to leave the UK.

The new accommodation "Cedars" in Pease Pottage, Sussex, has been designed in partnership with Barnardo's. Families will stay in a self-contained apartment for a short period immediately before their departure from the UK. They will also have open access to a library, family and youth lounge, and play areas for children.

The opening completes the implementation of the government's new family returns process for those found to have no right to be in the UK. This process emphasises close engagement with families, providing a range of opportunities for them to take up assisted returns or leave the country voluntarily. The accommodation will only be used as a last resort after advice has been sought from the Independent Family Returns Panel made up of child welfare experts.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

"The opening of the new pre-departure accommodation represents the final stage in the government's new approach to returning families found to have no right to be in the UK.

"It will be used as a last resort on the recommendation of the Independent Family Returns Panel of child welfare experts, and only after all voluntary return options have failed.

"We will continue to remove people with no right to be in the UK, if they do not take the opportunity to return voluntarily. This facility will allow us to do so in a way that provides more support to children and their families."

The accommodation and facilities have been developed by the UK Border Agency with advice from Barnardo's, to ensure the facility is designed with the needs of families in mind. New staff from G4S will help to operate the facility and the teams have undergone specialist training in working with families. No one will be placed there who is assessed to be a risk to the public and the surrounding community.

Barnardo's South East Regional Director, Michelle Lee-Izu, said:

"Barnardo's involvement at Cedars goes back to our core purpose - to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the UK. We are drawing on all of our expertise and experience in order to ensure the provision of high-quality welfare and social care services at the accommodation. We will seek to ensure that families are treated with dignity and respect at all times."

G4S Operations Director Barry Greenberry said:

"G4S is proud to be involved with Cedars. The health and safety of those people in our care is our top priority. We have unrivalled experience of caring for the some of the most challenging and vulnerable people in society, including children and families. We are confident that our expertise, combined with that of Barnardo's will ensure the best possible outcomes for residents at Cedars and that they are treated with sensitivity at a traumatic and difficult time in their lives."


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NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Barnardo's will provide support, high quality welfare and social care services to families as they prepare to return home. G4S will oversee the day to day running of the accommodation.

2. Up to nine families will be at the facility for the shortest time possible before their return flight. The majority of stays will be limited to 72 hours and any extension, up to a maximum of one week, will need to be approved by the Immigration Minister.

3. The Independent Family Returns Panel is made up of experts in children's welfare. The panel will consider cases where voluntary options to leave the country have not been effective. The panel will put children's welfare at the heart of the process.

4. The Panel's Chair is Chris Spencer, former Director of Children's Services in Hillingdon. Other members include: Pauline Newman, formerly a Director of Children's Services in Manchester. Philip Ishola and John Donaldson who both have a strong background in children's services. A GP - Dr John Keen - also sits on the Panel to provide medical advice.

5. The new Family Returns Process is practical and fair. Families will be offered assistance packages and can participate in family conferences to ensure they understand their options. The process aims to ensure that families can remain in the community prior to their departure home.

6. The new four-stage removal process, which began on 1 March 2011, is:

· decision-making, which has been strengthened through the creation of specialist family case owners within the UK Border Agency, the development of pilots to test new ways of working with families and our continuing work with the UNHCR to test and improve the quality of our decision making;

· assisted return, including family conferences to discuss the family's return home, welfare and medical concerns and the availability of tailored assisted voluntary return packages to help families resettle upon their return;

· required returns, for families who fail to take up assistance packages, allowing them to remain in the community, but giving two weeks notice to board their flight home and allowing self check-in without the need for enforcement action; and

· an ensured return, as a last resort for families who refuse to depart the UK. The new Family Returns Panel will advise the UK Border Agency on return plans to ensure the welfare of the child is taken properly into account. Options will include a form of limited notice removal, the use of open accommodation, and - as a last resort where families resolutely fail to comply- family friendly, pre-departure accommodation and Cedars.

7. Photos of the pre-departure accommodation can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49956354@N04/

8. For further information, please contact the press office newsdesk on 0207 035 3535.

Contacts:

Home Office Press Office
Phone: 020 7035 3535
NDS.HO@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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