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We deplore the draft Home Office guidance on solitary confinement

04 August 2016

Disability Rights UK CEO Liz Sayce, says this will damage the health of disabled people and could be life-threatening.

People held at Britain’s immigration removal centres can be thrown into solitary confinement against medical advice and held for hours without any explanation, according to new guidance set to be issued to guards by the Home Office.

See more in the Independent

Home Office guidance will allow immigration detention centre staff to ignore medical advice and place disabled asylum-seekers in solitary confinement even if it would be “life threatening” for the disabled person.

Liz Sayce said:

“We deplore the draft Home Office guidance because it permits solitary confinement of people living with mental health – or indeed other health – issues even if this will damage their health or be life-threatening.

We worry that this is part of an increasingly coercive approach towards people with mental health challenges.”  

She said the best mental health services were now phasing out “seclusion”, while a US Department of Health and Human Services agency has published a Roadmap to Seclusion and Restraint Free Mental Health Services.

“There is no similar commitment in England, although there are certainly mental health services where use of seclusion has gone right down, showing that services can manage without solitary confinement if they engage people using them in planning how those services should operate and use a range of approaches to support people rather than segregate them.”

In England, she said, the Mental Health Act was used 58,399 times to detain people in 2014-15, a 10 per cent increase on 2013-14 (53,156 times).

This was the highest year-on-year rise ever, and part of a long-term upward trend that has seen a 30 per cent increase between 2003-04 and 2013-14. 

“Many asylum-seekers have been traumatised and should not be caught up in coercive responses to mental distress.

We want to see a commitment from government to phasing out use of solitary confinement in a mental health context.

Asylum-seekers experiencing mental or physical health issues need their human rights protected.”