We ended the routine detention of families with children in 2010 following the introduction of the Family Returns Process, key elements of which were enshrined in the Immigration Act 2014. As part of that process, families with children who have failed to take up the opportunities to leave the UK voluntarily may, as a last resort, be detained very briefly to support their ensured return in dedicated accommodation, supported by appropriate professionals. In addition, it remains necessary on occasion to detain families with children at the border for short periods of time while enquiries are made to decide whether they can be admitted to the country, or until the next available return flight if they are refused entry.
It is already the case that unaccompanied children may be detained only in a limited number of very exceptional circumstances. This includes at the border, where they may be detained very briefly for their care and safety pending alternative care arrangements being made for them, for example, collection by relatives or friends or local authority children’s services.