Barnardo’s role in the detention and removal of children

Young offender in prison cell source: IRR News 
published: 15 May 2014

Barnardo’s reflection on its first two years at Cedars ‘pre-departure accommodation’ raises once again the problem of NGOs working to a state agenda.

When, in the wake of the coalition’s ‘abolition’ of child detention in 2010, Barnardo’s announced its participation in the Home Office’s new ‘family-friendly pre-departure accommodation’ to be managed by G4S, it ignited a furious debate in the voluntary sector about the ethics of such contracts, the extent to which organisations’ independence, values and raison d’être were compromised by involvement in the mechanisms of control.

Since the contract was signed, campaigners angry at what they see as collusion with the re-labelled, prettified detention of children have picketed Barnardo’s charity shops, leafletting staff and customers, occupied its Barkingside headquarters and disrupted a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

The charity responded that it was merely doing what it did best: providing welfare and social work services to support some of the most vulnerable children in the UK. CEDARS, the name of the centre, is an acronym for Compassion, Empathy, Dignity, Approachability, Respect and Support, which is supposed to represent the attitude to the families staying there. (It is not called a detention centre, despite its obvious security features.)

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