Asylum Matters, in partnership with 18 organisations, has launched a new report, ‘Lessons Learned? How Government Contracts Failed People Seeking Asylum, Again.’
The report looks at the catastrophic impact of another mishandled contract transition by the Home Office, this time for ASPEN cards, which left people seeking asylum without access to their only form of financial support, in some cases for over a month. In the run up to May 2021, when the contracts for these cards were due to change hands between providers, the Home Office was warned repeatedly about the grave impact of getting this transition wrong.
Predictably, a series of missteps by the Home Office left people seeking asylum living in poverty and uncertainty. Drawing on the evidence and experiences of 18 partner organisations based across the UK, who supported people during the ASPEN transition, and the InfoHub survey conducted by the team at Refugee Action, the report found that:
- More than 16,000 people were left without any financial support for a week. Almost six weeks after the transition, roughly 3,000 people still didn’t have access to a functioning ASPEN card.
- 74% of survey respondents stated that all, many or at least some of their clients who had faced issues with the transition had gone without basic essentials, including food, medicine or mobile data. 61% stated that all, many or at least some of their clients were referred to food banks.
- Families were particularly hard hit by the botched transition. 48% of survey respondents stated that children in families impacted by the ASPEN transition went without essentials – such as food and medicine.
Looking ahead, the provisions within the Government’s #AntiRefugeeBill will inevitably create further new contracts, whether running offshore asylum processing centres or warehouse-like “reception” accommodation centres. While the multi-billion pound companies that run them will make a profit, people in the asylum system risk being left in severely substandard accommodation, treated without dignity or respect and left in poverty or even homelessness while charities and the voluntary sector pick up the pieces and in essence subsidise these contracts.
Asylum Matters is calling on the Home Office to publish the results of its “lessons learned” review of what went wrong with the ASPEN transition, including an action plan setting out how it will apply these learnings to ensure the asylum support system consistently meets the needs of the vulnerable people within it.
You can view the report here: Asylum Matters Lessons Learned Report A4 RGB