In a new report published today on asylum accommodation, the Home Affairs Committee raises repeated concerns over the Home Office’s approach to the asylum accommodation contracts and the failure of the inspection regime to deal with substandard, unsafe housing.
Under the current contract (COMPASS), the Government outsources the provision of this accommodation to private contractors Clearsprings, G4S and Serco. These companies then accommodate people seeking asylum around the country on a no choice basis, often in deprived areas where housing is cheapest.
The report follows on from the Committee’s previous report on asylum accommodation published in January 2017. In the 2017 report, MPs warned of the need for local authorities to be involved in developing and overseeing the replacement to the COMPASS contracts for providing asylum accommodation. The Committee highlighted the failures of the inspection and compliance regimes to deal with properties left in a substandard, unsanitary or unsafe condition. The report also warned of the pressures of uneven dispersal, and of the inequity within the system that was placing intense pressure on those local authorities and communities which had volunteered to support people seeking asylum.
Nearly two years after the 2017 report, MPs have expressed their disappointment that the Government has not taken up the Committee’s recommendations on improving the standard of accommodation.
The report finds that the Home Office must show a greater urgency about the degrading conditions in which very vulnerable people are being housed under its contracts, including torture survivors, individuals suffering PTSD, pregnant women and mothers with small children. The Committee recommend that property standards should be aligned with local authority housing standards and that the Government should transfer the inspection duties currently carried out by the Home Office to local authorities, including the ability to impose sanctions, along with the necessary resources to carry out this function effectively.
The report also finds a deepening mistrust by local authorities of central government due to a lack of engagement by the Home Office on the location of asylum accommodation and the impact on local authorities.
Dr Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council said: “This report highlights once again the often unacceptable standard of asylum accommodation and the need for a more robust inspection regime to ensure that people seeking asylum receive housing that is safe, habitable and appropriate to their needs.
“Local authorities have a key role to play in both the planning and delivery of asylum accommodation, yet their expertise is not being utilised due to a lack of engagement by the Home Office. It is not surprising that the report finds local authorities feeling increasingly frustrated by the Home Office’s approach to asylum accommodation contracts. This stands in stark contrast to the high level of engagement the Home Office has with local authorities to plan and deliver the government’s resettlement programme. We call on the Home Office to take the good practice from their approach to engagement on resettlement and mirror this in their approach to asylum accommodation.”