The Home Office announced yesterday that it had awarded new contracts for providing accommodation to asylum seekers.
The new contracts will begin in September 2019 and are known as the Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contract (AASC). They will replace the Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services (COMPASS) contracts.
In a press release, the Home Office listed the providers who had been awarded the new contracts for each region as follows:
Midlands and East of England: Serco
• North East, Yorkshire and Humberside: Mears Group
• North West: Serco
• Northern Ireland: Mears Group
• Scotland: Mears Group
• South: Clearsprings Ready Homes
• Wales: Clearsprings Ready Homes
The Home Office says the new AASC contracts offer a range of improvements and will ensure that vulnerable asylum seekers have access to the support they need and set clear requirements on the standard and condition of accommodation.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: “The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it and these new contracts will make sure that asylum seekers are treated with dignity and respect in safe, secure and suitable accommodation. They will deliver compassionate support through a new integrated service and make the asylum system more accessible and easier to navigate.”
According to Reuters, the 10-year contracts are valued at £1.9 billion for Serco and £1 billion for Mears Group.
BBC News noted that Serco had, however, lost the asylum accommodation contract for Scotland.
Graham O’Neill of the Scottish Refugee Council said: “Over the last seven years we’ve seen too many examples of the impact poor quality accommodation has on people, particularly on children, pregnant women and parents. We’ve heard how people have been left in despair after being treated with a lack of dignity and respect from accommodation staff and how frightened people were after Serco locked people out of their homes.
“It is time for a new approach and in Glasgow we welcome this new chapter in supporting people seeking refugee protection.”
O’Neill said the Scottish Refugee Council looked forward to working alongside the Mears Group to make sure that anyone seeking refugee protection in Scotland is able to begin rebuilding their lives in safe, secure and appropriate accommodation.
Labour criticised the new AASC contracts, with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott saying: “These private companies have already failed to provide decent asylum accommodation, as they have failed in so many areas of social provision. The award of these contracts is a slap in the face to all those of who have suffered at their hands. Everyone should be able to access decent housing and the sooner these services are run by the public sector once more, the better.”
Abbott said private companies have no business running homes for asylum seekers and a Labour government would end the “rotten” system.
The Home Office also announced yesterday that Migrant Help were awarded the contract for the Advice, Issue Reporting and Eligibility Assistance services (AIRE), which will be a single integrated and national support service for asylum seekers.
Andrew Billany, the Chief Executive of Migrant Help, said: “The contract includes a number of new elements which will enable us to take a more holistic approach to the needs of asylum seekers. We look forward to providing more hands-on support during the post-decision period, making sure that clients are aware of their options, whether the decision has been positive or negative. Through the issue reporting aspect of the contract we will assist the asylum accommodation providers to record and resolve issues with accommodation, as well as ensure that feedback and complaints are addressed in a timely manner and to the clients’ satisfaction.”