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

9. 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.

  • A comprehensive child protection policy and guidance are in place, which 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.
  • There is regular monitoring of the number of children detained, their age and the duration of their detention.
  • The burden of proof in age dispute cases is on the Home Office. Detainees have a Merton-compliant assessment unless their demeanour and appearance is clearly that of an adult significantly over the age of 18.21 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, facility staff believe that a detainee may be a child, they understand they have a duty to act on their assessment, and immediately inform facility managers, social services and the Home Office.
  • There is effective governance of CIO age assessments which are monitored and subject to quality assurance. 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.

21This will be reviewed in light of changes in legislation.

Human rights standards

Safeguarding children
In relation to expectation 9 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, as a rule, 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 detained or 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, 28.1, 31, 33–37, 39; UNHCR–DG 8, 9.2; HR 82, 85–87; CPT 10. See additionally in relation to women, BR 28.