Frequently asked questions
- Which Boards currently have vacancies in my area?
- How long will it take me to be appointed?
- Who decides whether I am suitable for appointment?
- Is there anything that might prevent me from being able to apply?
- Will I be able to claim expenses?
- Can I still be a member of IMB if I am in full time employment?
- What training will I receive?
- What is an immigration removal centre?
- Can you tell me about the history of IMBs?
- Is being an IMB member the same as being a prison visitor or befriender?
- Q: Which Boards currently have vacancies in my area?
Each board manages its own recruitment; it is not possible for us to keep a fully up-to-date record on this site. However if there are no vacancies on your chosen board when we receive your application we will get in touch with you and let you know whether other boards in your area are recruiting new volunteers. You will then be able to choose whether you would like us to pass your application on to another IMB or whether you would like your details to be saved until your chosen board next conducts a recruitment campaign.
- Q: How long will it take me to be appointed?
Every IMB member has unrestricted access to their local prison or immigration removal centre so it is important that all applicants are interviewed and security cleared before appointment (the level of security clearance needed depends on the establishment you will be working in). Board members are then individually appointed. This whole process can take some time, usually between two and six months. We will keep you fully informed during this process and hope that you will appreciate why it is necessary.
- Q: Who decides whether I am suitable for appointment?
Once you submit your application to become an IMB member you will be invited to attend an interview, which will be conducted by two members of your local board and an independent panel member from another IMB. The interview panel will write to the Minister, who makes the final decision as to whether or not you should be appointed.
- Q: Is there anything that might prevent me from being able to apply?
You can not join to an IMB if your appointment would lead to a potential conflict of interest, for example if you have a business involvement in supplying a service to the prison or immigration removal centre, or if you have a close friend or relative inside. However, decisions are made on an individual basis and in many instances it is possible to become a member of a nearby Board where such a conflict will not arise. If you are worried about a possible conflict please contact the IMB Secretariat on 020 7035 2261 and we would be happy to discuss this with you.
- Q: Will I be able to claim expenses?
IMBs are all unpaid volunteers. However, members are able to claim expenses, for example for the cost of travelling in and out of the establishment for visits or board meetings, or for costs incurred as a result of attending IMB training courses. Members are also able to claim financial loss allowance in some circumstances, which may include the cost of childcare.
- Q: Can I still be a member of an IMB if I am in full time employment?
Yes. Being a member of an IMB will take up an average of 2-3 days per month of your time and many of our members are in full time employment. The timing of monitoring visits is flexible and can usually be scheduled outside of working hours, although there are some Boards which hold their monthly meetings during the morning or afternoon. You may also very occasionally need to attend training days during working hours, although we try to keep this to a minimum.
Being a member of an IMB is recognised as a public duty under the Employment Rights Act 1996, which means your employer is obliged to allow you ‘reasonable’ time off in order to perform your role as a Board member. For further information on this please contact the IMB Secretariat on 020 7035 2261.
- Q: What training will I receive?
During the first six months of being an IMB member you will attend a New Members’ Course. This will allow you to meet other new IMB members in your region and learn about the role of the board. You will also receive on-the-job training from experienced members of your local board. Later on you will have the chance to attend additional training courses, as well as an opportunity to attend the annual conference for IMBs.
- Q: What is an immigration removal centre?
The role of an immigration removal centre is to detain failed asylum seekers pending their removal from the country. The length of stay ranges from a few hours to several months. Detainees may have launched an appeal against their removal and be awaiting a court appearance of a decision.
The detainees are not criminals and are allowed as much free association as possible within a relaxed environment. There can be as many as 45 different nationalities within a centre at any one time and several centres also contain family units, so a large part of the IMB role in these establishments is ensuring that the services provided meet their diverse needs. There are currently nine immigration removal centres in England and one in Scotland.
- Q: Can you tell me about the history of IMBs?
By law every prison and immigration removal centre must have an Independent Monitoring Board. IMBs in prisons derive their responsibilities from the Prison Act 1952 (Section 6), whereas IMBs in immigration removal centres derive their responsibilities from the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Until April 2003, IMBs in prisons were known as ‘Boards of Visitors’ and IMBs in immigration removal centres were known as ‘Visiting Committees’. They are still referred to in the legislation under their old titles, although this is likely to change in the near future.
The principle of independent monitoring of prisons is one that has been around since Tudor times, although the IMBs of today are very different to those that existed in the past. IMBs in immigration removal centres were established more recently following an inspection in 1989 of what was then Harmondsworth Detention Centre.
- Q: Is being an IMB member the same as being a prison visitor or befriender?
No. A Prison Visitor visits inmates who have no other visitors, perhaps because they are far from home or have no close relatives to visit them. To find out more about this type of work please contact the National Association of Official Prison Visitors
Each immigration removal centre also has a visitors’ group, whose members visit and befriend detainees. Again this is different to the role of IMB members, who are there to be independent monitors.