A well-run centre and dedicated staff facing a challenging year, IMB Morton Hall reports

The Independent Monitoring Board believes that Morton Hall continues to be a well-run immigration removal centre whose staff at all levels are dedicated, conscientious and extremely hard-working.

The Lincolnshire charity, Children’s Links, makes a significant contribution to the good welfare provision for detainees and their families. During 2016 education, purposeful activities and learning opportunities provided by Lincoln College have expanded, with the focus on extending the employability skills of participants. Healthcare, supplied by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has also seen impressive development during the year with increased staffing in all areas, particularly in regard to mental health and substance misuse.

However, the IMB has continuing concerns about the suitability of an IRC environment for detainees with serious mental health conditions.

2016 proved increasingly challenging for the centre, particularly towards the year end, with rising levels of verbal abuse, aggression and violence directed towards staff as well as other residents, often a consequence of drug misuse and involving ex-offenders who averaged close to 50% of the detainee population for much of this period.

Considerable effort was deployed to curtail drug supply through constant vigilance and other initiatives, with discernible results in recent months.

Self-harm incidents and the number of detainees for whom special care plans and monitoring were initiated increased considerably in 2016, particularly amongst younger residents, and mainly arising from deportation issues and uncertainty.

The IMB recognises the complexity of immigration procedures but remains concerned at the length of time taken to progress some cases, in particular the deportation of ex-offenders and the small number of individuals kept in detention for 12 months or longer.

During the year a number of serious incidents and further harm to individual detainees were avoided through the skill, care and professionalism of staff in all areas of the centre.