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Staffing and culture

  1. During the relevant period, G4S and the Home Office did not provide a sufficiently caring, secure or decent environment for detained people or staff at Brook House.
  2. The Inquiry identified a number of issues relating to staffing, both by G4S and the Home Office. It is difficult to say whether contractually prescribed levels were adequate, and there was also evidence of problems with recruitment and retention. Nonetheless, it is clear that actual staffing levels achieved by G4S were insufficient for much of the relevant period, as those working at Brook House (both from G4S and the Home Office) were aware. The Serco contract allows for significantly higher minimum staff numbers at Brook House than during the relevant period. Insufficient staffing levels had a detrimental – and sometimes significant – impact on safety, as well as resulting in detained people being unable to access services and activities to which they were entitled. My view is that staff, in turn, saw detained people and their needs as problems rather than the reason why the staff were there. I am therefore recommending that the Home Office and those managing immigration removal centres undertake regular and ongoing assessments of staffing levels.
Recommendation 23: Ongoing assessment of staffing levels

The Home Office and contractors operating immigration removal centres must ensure that there is ongoing assessment of staffing levels (at least on a quarterly basis), so that the level of staff present within each centre is appropriate for the size and needs of the detained population.

The Home Office must also ensure that the detained population does not increase at any immigration centre unless staffing is at an adequate level.
  1. There was evidence questioning “the quality and content” of some of the training offered to staff (the content of which was set by G4S, although its plan was approved by the Home Office).1 There were also a number of areas in which there was insufficient or no training, including mental health and working with vulnerable people. The consequence of inadequate training and development during the relevant period was that staff were left unprepared and unable to do their jobs properly, without the required complex combination of skills, including resilience, compassion, strength and authority. I am therefore recommending that the training provided to detention staff be improved – it should be at least equivalent in depth and breadth to that received by prison officers.
Recommendation 24: Mandatory training for immigration removal centre staff

The Home Office, in conjunction with contractors, must ensure that all relevant immigration removal centre staff receive mandatory introductory and annual training on:

●  mental health;
●  race and diversity;
●  a trauma-informed approach;
●  their own resilience;
●  drug awareness; and
●  the purpose of immigration removal centres.

This training must include the perspectives of, or be conducted in consultation with, detained people.

The Home Office must also ensure, in conjunction with contractors, that new joiners must start on probation on completion of introductory training and be adequately supervised for a period of time as necessary to establish their competence to work independently.
  1. Many staff who gave evidence to the Inquiry felt that the G4S Senior Management Team (SMT) was “not visible”, insufficiently accessible and “notoriously unavailable”.2 The Inquiry also heard evidence of dysfunctional relationships within the SMT. A steep hierarchy was compounded by shift patterns that meant there were long periods with limited SMT (and indeed Detention Custody Manager) presence. This likely contributed to a feeling that the Detention Custody Officers and Detention Custody Managers were largely left to manage on their own ‘against’ the detained people, with their actions neither under sufficient scrutiny from, nor of particular concern to, senior managers. It also reduced the ability of SMT members to recognise and to act proactively upon behavioural and cultural issues. I am therefore recommending that contractors managing immigration removal centres ensure that senior managers are more accessible to other staff.
Recommendation 25: Improving the visibility of senior managers within centres

Contractors operating immigration removal centres must ensure that senior managers are regularly present and visible within the immigration removal centre and are accessible to more junior detention staff.
  1. Home Office staff at Brook House were not caseworkers or decision- makers, but there was still a lack of interaction with detained people during the relevant period, which was indicative of a general ‘hands-off’ culture. There was also a lack of concern by some for the welfare of those detained at Brook House. Had there been more present and actively involved Home Office staff, there might also have been opportunities to identify and challenge poor culture and behaviour, and to better assess the welfare of detained people. I am therefore recommending that the Home Office take action to improve the visibility of its staff within Brook House.
Recommendation 26: Improving the visibility of Home Office staff

The Home Office must ensure that its staff are regularly present and visible within each immigration removal centre.
  1. The culture at Brook House, particularly among staff, set the tone for interactions with and the treatment of detained people. Abusive and derogatory language was used towards and about many detained people. I observed explicit racism and tolerance of racism by others, along with a desire by some staff to ‘fit in’ and to appear ‘tough’ or masculine by adopting the aggressive culture of some existing staff. These aspects of staff behaviour cannot be separated from cultural issues.
  2. Some staff “thought they were working in a prison”.3 This ‘prisonisation’ (a non-prison setting being treated in effect as a prison, with detained people treated as criminal and dangerous) manifested in the way that staff interacted with detained people. Closely related to this was the existence of an ‘us and them’ mentality among staff towards detained people, which resulted at times in desensitisation to detained people’s needs and ultimately to their dehumanisation by staff. There was repeated emphasis on the risks of escape, physical assault and radicalisation. Examples of friendly rapport-building stood in stark contrast to many interactions between staff and detained people. This culture played a part in enabling poor treatment of detained people, who were seen as ‘other’, while simultaneously making it less likely that staff would challenge or report each other. It led to those who spoke out being seen as ‘grasses’ and traitors.
  3. There was a lack of appreciation of the inevitable power imbalance between the detained population and staff by many working at Brook House. It is entirely credible that matters about which staff may not have thought deeply (such as delivery of letters regarding a detained person’s immigration case) or conduct that they may have seen as ‘banter’ (such as delaying access to basic necessities such as toilet roll) felt both intimidating and humiliating to detained people, who were in an inherently more vulnerable position.
  4. There were numerous examples of abusive and derogatory language – as well as childish behaviour – by G4S staff towards and about detained people, ranging from demeaning comments to direct verbal abuse. Violence and violent language were extreme manifestations of the toxic culture and bravado. Such violent language included comments such as:

“We should just go back to putting them to sleep mate really … Get the gas, chuck it in there, they’re all knocked out … needle in, he wakes up in fucking wherever.”4

  1. The Inquiry also saw evidence of racist beliefs and words becoming part of the culture and being seen by some as a way to ‘fit in’. Although it was relatively rare for directly racist language to be used by staff towards detained people, it is likely that racially charged language towards detained people was more prevalent (such as “go back to your own country”, given the number of allegations about this kind of comment) and that racist comments among staff were common.5 When abusive language was reported, there is some evidence that G4S took disciplinary action, but on many other occasions this does not appear to have been the case.
  2. The extent to which staff raised grievances about one another appears to have been a significant aspect of the culture at Brook House. The consequences were “difficult dynamics”, a “hostile and awkward” environment, a poor management culture, and a distraction from the core business of detaining people safely and decently.6
  3. The Inquiry was told about a number of efforts that Serco has made to improve culture. The 2022 HMIP inspection report, about an unannounced inspection of Brook House between 30 May and 16 June 2022, noted “promising” work to understand staff culture, but it also identified that “a large number” of staff were “inexperienced and operational leaders did not provide them with enough support in the unit”.7, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, September 2022I am also troubled that some staff involved in problematic events during the relevant period are now in senior roles, with responsibility for setting the culture, despite showing little or no real reflection on their actions. I am therefore recommending that action be taken to improve the culture among staff.
Recommendation 27: Developing a healthy culture among staff

Contractors operating immigration removal centres must develop and implement an action plan to ensure a safe and healthy staff culture in immigration removal centres. The action plan must address:

●  the identification of and response to any sign of desensitisation among staff;
●  training staff on coping mechanisms and secondary trauma awareness; and
●  maintaining an appropriate balance between care and safety or security.

The Home Office must regularly monitor each contractor’s compliance with their action plans.


  1. CJS0073709_013 para 1.38; Professor Mary Bosworth 29 March 2022 23/16-23; DL0000175_0007 para 14[]
  2. INN000007_006 para 21; Daniel Lake 1 March 2022 8/24-9/15; Callum Tulley 30 November 2021  158/2; INN000013_005 para 15; SER000459_009 para 43; MAR000002_006 para 47; Derek Murphy 2 March 2022 4/9-5/5-8; INQ000087_003; Edmund Fiddy 7 March 2022 157/16-20; Ben Saunders  22 March 2022 85/2-14, 87/17-88/1[]
  3. INN000013_013 para 41[]
  4. TRN0000084_010[]
  5. See, for example, DPG000040_014-015 paras 62-64; DPG000021_026-027 paras 83 and 87; HOM002190_001 row 3; DPG000002_024 para 63; GDW000010_004-005[]
  6. INQ000164_008 para 10; CJS0073709_066 para 7.3; CJS0073663_007[]
  7. Report on an Unannounced Inspection of Brook House Immigration Removal Centre 30 May–16 June 2022 (HMIP000702)[]