Fence with lights in the background

Action Access: A New Alternative to Detention Pilot for Women in the UK

Written by Jem Stevens

Europe Regional Coordinator, International Detention Coalition (IDC)

There’s something different about the newest member of the European Alternatives to Detention (ATD) NetworkAction Foundation is the first NGO running a government-initiated and funded alternative to detention pilot project to join the Network, which is working to reduce immigration detention across the region.

Called “Action Access” and based in Newcastle in the UK, the 2-year pilot will provide individualised case management and housing support to vulnerable women who are currently detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, or who would otherwise be detained there, to resolve their immigration cases in a more humane and cost-effective way.

Up to 21 clients at a time will be provided with complex and personalised assistance including stable housing as well as impartial information to be able to explore all their options and make informed decisions regarding their life. Case managers will help to improve clients’ access to welfare services and independent legal advice.

The Home Office launched the pilot in December 2018 as part of its detention reform process, which has already seen the detention capacity reduced by 40% since 2015. It’s one of a series of alternative to detention pilots the UK government is planning, to test whether collaboration with faith and community groups can provide better outcomes for individuals through faster case resolution, without the use of detention.

Julian Prior, CEO of Action Foundation, said:

“For many years we have successfully supported some of the most vulnerable people at the end of their asylum claim to avoid destitution and provide the stability and help they need to make some informed choices about their future. We are very pleased to use this opportunity to increase our work in this area by supporting women who would otherwise be detained through this new pilot. Early indications of the improvement of the health and wellbeing of clients have been very positive. One participant said that since joining the pilot it had been the first time that she had slept a full night for months.”

The European ATD Network links NGO-run ATD pilot projects based on case management in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and the UK. Through practical implementation, solution based advocacy, and qualitative and quantitative evaluation, the Network seeks to build evidence and momentum around engagement-based alternatives to detention, to reduce the use of immigration detention in Europe and build fairer, more humane and transparent migration systems.

As Europe Regional Coordinator for the International Detention Coalition, we’re delighted to welcome Action Foundation to the European ATD Network. We’re seeing growing momentum on engagement-based alternatives to detention in Europe – Action Foundation is leading the way, helping us build learning on how NGO-government collaboration can contribute to change and reduce reliance on immigration detention.

For more information about the pilot project please visit: https://actionfoundation.org.uk/projects/action-access/