The centre promotes the welfare of children and protects them from all kinds of harm and neglect.

14. Children are properly protected in a safe environment. All staff safeguard and promote their welfare.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Home Office staff know whether detainees have children and are assured that care arrangements for them are appropriate.
  • A comprehensive child protection policy and guidance are in place, and have been agreed by the local safeguarding children board or equivalent.
  • All staff are aware of their personal and professional duty of care to any children in the centre, and receive appropriate training.
  • Staff promptly raise any concerns about the safety and welfare of children in accordance with agreed referral procedures.
  • All staff who have contact with children are properly vetted and trained.
  • Staff are aware of their duty to raise legitimate concerns about the conduct of colleagues in relation to the treatment and management of children. Staff are encouraged by managers to raise any such concerns, and feel confident and safe to do so.
  • Children visiting the centre are safe and can enjoy visits in an environment that is sensitive to their needs.
  • Visits staff are aware of detainees who may pose a risk to children and take appropriate and proportionate steps to ensure children’s safety.

15. Detainees who say they are under 18 are promptly assessed and properly cared for while in the centre.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • The burden of proof in age dispute cases is on the Home Office. Detainees have a prompt Merton-compliant assessment unless their demeanour and appearance is clearly that of an adult significantly over the age of 18.5 All detainees who say they are children are treated as such until it is determined otherwise.
  • If, despite a chief immigration officer’s (CIO’s) assessment to the contrary, centre staff believe that a detainee may be a child, they understand they have a duty to act on their assessment, and immediately inform centre managers, social services and the Home Office.
  • Where social services assess a detainee to be a child there is a multi-agency review of any prior CIO assessment; lessons are learned and reflected in future practice.
  • Age assessments are promptly reviewed if fresh evidence is received.
  • Multidisciplinary care planning is in place for all detainees whose age is in dispute. Their location in and movement around the centre is on the basis of a risk assessment and pays due attention to their individual needs.
  • Detainees assessed to be under 18 are released into appropriate care as soon as possible. Comprehensive written information is kept on each age dispute case, showing the time taken for assessment and, where relevant, release.
  • Detainees who say they are children are assisted to obtain legal advice and representation and supported to contact any other individuals or agencies.

5This will be reviewed in the light of changes in legislation.

Human rights standards

Safeguarding children
In relation to expectations 14 and 15 above: Human rights standards prohibit the arbitrary detention of children and provide children with the right to challenge the legality of their detention. Children should only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time. Unaccompanied children should not be detained and must be provided with special protection and alternative care. The best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. See CRC 3, 20, 22.1, 37(b), (d); ICCPR 9.1, 9.4; HR 2; UNHCR–DG 9.2; CPT 10.

Any child who is visiting a detention centre must be protected from exploitation and abuse and be provided with care and protection to ensure their well-being. Children’s rights to, among other things, education, play and to the highest attainable standard of health, must be promoted. See CRC 3.2, 3.3, 24.1, 31, 33–37, 39; UNHCR–DG 8, 9.2; HR 82, 85–87; CPT 10.