Immigration Removal Centres need to focus on detainees’ mental health and wellbeing, says new report

11 January 2017

People detained in Immigration Removal Centres in England face challenges to their mental health and need support for their wellbeing, according to a report published today by Centre for Mental Health.

Immigration Removal Centres in England: A mental health needs analysis was commissioned by NHS England. The Centre conducted interviews with staff and detainees and observations at ten IRCs which between them held 30,000 people in the year to March 2016.

The report finds that all immigration detainees experience significant distress and many had faced trauma prior to being detained. It finds that being in immigration detention adds to people’s distress and that mental health support varies from one centre to another.

The report finds some examples of well-received support, including offers of psychological therapy, wellbeing groups and the support provided by chaplains. But it also finds that some detainees didn’t feel listened to or believed when they asked for help. And mental health care staff face significant challenges working in IRCs where people may be removed at short notice and face high levels of uncertainty about their future.

The report finds that the NHS and the Home Office are working in partnership to make improvements to the support available in all IRCs, for example by implementing a ‘stepped care’ model of mental health support and carefully monitoring progress.

The report calls for all IRCs to become psychologically informed: providing all staff with training about mental health and trauma and offering a wide range of effective interventions to support the wellbeing of detainees and staff. As well as providing psychological therapies, IRCs should offer alternatives such as relaxation groups and peer support, specialist support for those with the most complex needs and round-the-clock crisis care.

Report author Dr Graham Durcan said:

People held in Immigration Removal Centres face serious challenges to their mental health. Many have been through traumatic events and all face an uncertain future. While not all will have a diagnosable mental illness, most will need some help for their mental health and benefit from interventions to support their wellbeing. At present, such help is patchy and often limited to specialist medical care.

“Our report concludes that IRCs need to be psychologically informed throughout. All staff should be trained in mental health awareness, proven psychological interventions should be offered when people seek help and crisis care should be available 24/7. We welcome NHS England’s commitment to improving mental health support in all IRCs and hope that the stepped care approach will ensure no one is left without the help they need when they need it.”

Read the report here 

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