International service company Serco Group plc has signed a new contract with the UK Home Office Immigration Enforcement department to manage the Gatwick Immigration Removal Centres (IRC).
The deal is expected to start on 21 May and has an estimated total contract value of about £200 million over an initial eight-year term.
Under the Gatwick IRC contract, Serco will manage and operate both the Brook House and Tinsley House IRCs, as well as providing pre-departure accommodation (PDA) services that are currently operated under a separate contract and delivered from a dedicated unit within Tinsley House.
Serco will be responsible for all aspects of detainee safety, security and welfare provision (excluding healthcare services, which will continue to be operated under a separate contract commissioned by NHS England), together with facilities management and catering.
Serco will be recruiting 170 additional employees, increasing overall staffing levels to about 580. This increase is intended "to ensure stability and decency in the support and care for residents, and was mandated by the UK Home Office as part of the bid process". Current employees will transfer to Serco under TUPE rules.
All existing and new staff will receive thorough training and management support to guarantee that there is a positive culture at the centre and that high standards of professional conduct are maintained.
A new programme of activities for residents will also be introduced, including an extended core day and purposeful activities to improve the centre environment for all detainees and staff, in line with Home Office requirements.
Rupert Soames, Serco Group chief executive, said: "We are very pleased to have been awarded this new contract to manage the Gatwick Immigration Removal Centres.
"Serco has a great deal of experience of caring for people in the immigration system both in the UK and internationally, and we understand the sensitivity and complexity of this role. We know that staff and managers at Gatwick IRC have worked hard to achieve improvements in recent years and we look forward to working with them to build upon this further.
"The Home Office has made significant investment in the design and resourcing of the new contract, and we are committed to ensuring that there is a healthy, decent environment in the centres for all residents and employees."
Serco has previously courted controversy with its contract at Yarl's Wood immigration centre where its staff were accused of abusing detainees.