Case study 2 February 2020

Home Office: Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre


Care & Custody won the contract to run both Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres under one supplier, and as one centre, in 2014.

As part of the contract we are responsible for the full management and maintenance of the centre, including the provision of a safe and secure environment for detainees, with an engaging regime, healthcare and catering provision that adheres to all relevant legislation.

Taking over the contract meant transitioning and integrating two separate operations, run by independent providers to that point. Challenges arose, including different local processes and procedures, shift patterns, staff structures and culture, terms and conditions of employment and no established working relationship between the two sites.


Approximately 450 employees were integrated into Mitie from GEO and Serco through TUPE, forming a new group of employees under the umbrella of ‘Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre’. The Centre collectively accommodates over 1,100 detainees on behalf of the Home Office and is the largest of its kind in Europe.

Following the handover to Care & Custody, options were explored to develop cross-deployment across both sites with the aim of rejuvenating employees’ interest and morale, increasing their experience, and harmonising processes. Doing so enabled us to transfer best practice between the two sites, and also meant we had a larger pool of resources and transferable skills at our disposal which increased operational efficiency and ensured consistency of care for detainees.

We implemented a single Rosters team, Care team and one Senior Management team to cover both sites. The expectation for teams to work at both sites is driven from the top with our most senior officers working across both sites to set the example of having a positive and motivated approach to the opportunities that arise.

Since 2014, we have undertaken a significant capital works programme to enhance the centre’s facilities, addressing HM Inspectorate of Prisons report recommendations and focusing on improving the fabric of building, such as refurbishing old accommodation and showers. We’ve also implemented positive regime changes, including the introduction of a new 50:50 regime in 2016, allowing detainees considerably greater access to centre facilities more of the time.


Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre continues to cross-deploy across both sites, the success of which has been demonstrated by requests from some staff members to permanently change normal work location. We’ve established a unified, positive culture and this contract has confirmed our role as a strategic partner to the Home Office.

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