AVID Training
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Visitor groups in the AVID network visit all Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), Residential Short-Term Holding facilities (RSTHF) and some prisons. You can find where groups in our network visit on our Map in addition to sites of detention which are planned to open. There are still many people who are held under Immigration Act powers in prisons without access to a visitor group. You can find statistics on where people are detained in prison in our Knowledge Hub.  

AVID is keen to hear from anyone who is interested in setting up a group to visit people detained in prisons or local to new sites of detention.

Steps to set up a group

1. Galvanise Support.

Once you have decided on the idea of setting up a group, talk to friends, family, and neighbours to see if they are interested or know of anyone who is interested in joining. You can use posters, social media, community notice boards, or your local papers. Explain the reasons behind setting up the group and how you can be contacted.

Engage with and recruit people with lived experience of detention to help shape the direction of the group and meaningfully influence decision making. Or you could build relationships with other lived experience led groups who can help input into the way you operate from the start.

 2. Organise an information session about detention.

 Once you have people interested, contact them and hold an information session. We can support you at AVID by joining this session or providing you with resources and materials. Be clear on the next steps and arrange a follow up phone call to keep people engaged.

 3. Decide on the structure of your group.

At the first few meetings, set up clear aims for the group and discuss how the group will be managed and structured. This can form the basis for a Group Agreement which sets out the purpose of the group, how the group will make decisions, values and how often the agreement is returned to.

You can speak to AVID or groups in the AVID network to find out about other groups in the network, their structure and ways of working. Members of the AVID network range from non-hierarchical volunteer run groups to registered charity with paid members of staff.

The group will be operating in a very difficult environment, which can be emotionally challenging. Therefore, in addition to the group agreement, it is important to put other policies and support mechanisms in place. This could include visiting in pairs, regular debrief sessions or a buddy system. AVID can provide you with template policies.

4. Organise training for your group.

AVID provides core training to visitor groups which covers essential visiting skills and an overview of detention policy and practice. This is accompanied by access to our handbook and Knowledge Hub for visitors.

5. Build partnerships.

 In order to support and advocate on behalf of people in detention effectively, building relationships with other organisations that share the same values as your group is essential. This should include other local migrant solidarity groups and national organisations supporting people in detention.

 6. Access to sites of immigration detention.

People in detention are entitled to establish and maintain contact with people outside of detention (The Detention Centre Rules 2001). The Detention Services Operating Standards manual for private contractors also makes explicit reference to AVID and states that the centre “must maintain up-to-date lists of local befriending groups”.

AVID can provide you with support to establish a relationship with the centre and to set up a regular visiting agreement. This usually involves several meetings over a period of time between the Home Office, Centre management, AVID and the visiting group. Depending on the arrangement, Enhanced Disclosure Certificate (DBS) may be required.

Any relationship with centre management at the detention centre should maintain independence. Independence is one of AVIDs core values and this is central to the role of volunteer visitors and the ability of visitors to build trusting, effective relationships with people in detention.

It is also possible for groups to arrange visits without an official arrangement in place with the centre and by booking visits by contacting the centre directly with the name of the person you are visiting.  This has important benefits however, working in this way could restrict referrals, the level of support you can provide and make it more difficult to get the word out to people in detention about your group.


“AVID has been at the heart of DVG’s development from the start. They helped us with early recruitment and comprehensive training and have fronted the phone/emails to respond to requests for visits until we recently became more independent. We’ve really benefited from AVID’s contacts and networks. DVG is still a young organisation, but we are growing in capacity, skill, and confidence, despite a number of setbacks. So, thank you AVID for getting us up on our feet, for your generosity of spirit, for your efficiency, and for your rigour in practising your values so that we too can contribute to supporting all the women who are detained in our inhumane UK detention system.”  - DVG Volunteer


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