People seeking asylum who would otherwise be destitute are entitled to asylum accommodation while their application for protection is considered by the Home Office. Accommodation is provided on a no-choice basis across the UK and is referred to as ‘dispersal accommodation’. The procurement and management of these properties is run by private providers, such as Mears, Serco and Clearsprings, who are contracted to provide this service by the Home Office.
The current contracts, referred to as ‘COMPASS’, have received widespread criticism, relating to poor property standards, the lack of independent oversight, and the need for fairer resourcing for Local Authorities and communities. These contracts are due to expire in 2019 and the Government are currently tendering for a replacement, with new contracts worth just over £4 billion for a period of 10 years.
Asylum Matters is concerned that the new contracts have not addressed key concerns and learnings from the past. Notably, there has been no recognition of the formal oversight role that should be played by Local Authorities which have the local knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions about procurement, or the resourcing to enable them to carry out this role as well as to support the local receiving communities and services. In addition, harmful practices such as the forced room-sharing of unrelated adults or the use of large-scale Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) have not been ruled out.
To that end, Asylum Matters’ advocacy work on asylum accommodation is focused on documenting key concerns with existing accommodation, while working to encourage debate and scrutiny of the new contracts. See here for details of an upcoming Westminster Hall Debate on asylum accommodation contracts and our latest call to action. We’re also campaigning to end the practice of forced room-sharing between unrelated adult asylum-seekers around the UK. Contact us to learn more and get involved.