News News NEWS: How INQUEST is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic 1 April 2020 All of us at INQUEST hope you are safe and well during this challenging time. People detained in prisons, police custody, immigration detention centres or mental health and learning disability settings must not be forgotten during this coronavirus pandemic. Unlike people in the community, those held in detention are totally dependent on the state for their safety. They are living in close proximity and cannot choose to self-isolate. Budget cuts across the public sector alongside long-term issues have already resulted in poor conditions and levels of care, intensifying pre-existing risks to safety and life. How INQUEST is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: We are continuing to prioritise our advice and casework service. Inquests and investigations are now subject to disruption and newly bereaved families are likely to encounter restrictions to post death rituals. Our casework team are closely monitoring the situation, liaising with investigation bodies and the Chief Coroner’s Office, and speaking with lawyers and bereaved families to provide much needed support and clarity. HELP AND ADVICE We are raising our concerns with decision makers and reminding authorities of their domestic and international human rights obligations. There must be transparency and an effective investigation following any death in custody and detention. We have published a detailed briefing setting out our immediate concerns around the pandemic in our areas of expertise which was broadly disseminated to ministers, parliamentarians, NGOs and others. READ THE BRIEFING We are putting pressure on the government to ensure that people in places of detention are protected during this crisis. INQUEST and Women in Prison wrote an open letter to the government calling for a drastic reduction of people in prison and immigration detention, supported by over 150 signatories. This received coverage in The Times, Independent and elsewhere. READ THE LETTER We are providing regular updates via our website and social media on the provision and availability of our services, the impact on investigations and inquests, and other agencies for practical and emotional support during this period. VISIT OUR WEBSITE People held in detention settings are some of society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged. COVID-19 does not discriminate, nor should our response to it. Just as the government’s response in the community seeks to prioritise protecting those most at risk, so should its response within detention settings. Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST We know that this is a time of uncertainty and stress for everyone. This period may be particularly hard and isolating for those who have experienced traumatic bereavement, writes our Family Participation Officer, Mo Mansfield, in a blog to bereaved families. For further information visit the COVID-19 webpage.