Yarl’s Wood is the only immigration removal centre that holds only women, children and families. The inherent vulnerability of the population has meant that it has been subject to particularly active scrutiny. This inspection found that there had been some improvements in the centre since the last inspection, particularly in relation to conditions, services and support for children. There was a new school, professionally run, which attempted to provide a good curriculum for the wide range of transient children held. The youth club and youth worker provided much-needed support and activity and nursery provision was good. Social workers participated in weekly multi-disciplinary meetings to discuss the welfare of each individual child. We continued to have concerns about aspects of detention at the centre. The first related to the detention of children. In spite of the centre’s considerable and commendable efforts, the fact of detention clearly and adversely affected children’s welfare, as our interviews with and observations of detained children during the inspection made clear. What was particularly troubling was that decisions to detain, and to maintain detention of, children and families did not appear to be fully informed by considerations of the welfare of children, nor could their detention be said to be either exceptional or necessary. Over the past six months, 420 children had been detained, of whom half had been released back into the community, calling into question the need for their detention and the disruption and distress this caused. Some children and babies had been detained for considerable periods – 68 for over a month and one, a baby, for 100 days – in some cases even after social workers had indicated concerns about their and their family’s welfare. Detailed welfare discussions did not fully feed into submissions to Ministers on continued detention. […] Yarl’s Wood was an improved and largely well-run centre. However, there were two main findings from this inspection. The first is that the conditions, activities and services for children, within the centre, had improved significantly, but this, while welcome, could not compensate for the adverse effect of detention itself on the welfare of children, half of whom were later released back into the community. The second main finding is that there had not been equal or sufficient attention to the needs of the majority population of single women, some of whom were held for long periods, and for whom there was little activity and sometimes not enough support. These are messages for the UK Border Agency, as well as for the centre and its managers.