People seeking asylum must be supported and housed appropriately while their cases are being processed. The Home Office is responsible for the delivery of this housing and support service. In 2016 our predecessor Committee raised concerns about the management of COMPASS, the previous contracts. In late 2019 the Home Office introduced new contracts to provide accommodation and a new helpline and support service, AIRE. These new contracts are in their early stages but there is still a long way to go before services for asylum seekers deliver all that was promised by the Home Office. The Department let the new contracts and transferred services on time, but its lack of preparation and failure to share data meant elements of the new services were set up to fail. The failure to have effective services fully up and running in the first year has had a significant impact on the lives of asylum seekers. The Department is unacceptably vague about its plans to improve services, and lacks an effective line of sight into how services are delivered locally.
The Department’s widespread use of hotels through the COVID-19 pandemic was done at speed for obvious reasons. But the pace at which the Home Office needed to work did not excuse the lack of discussion with local authorities and local NHS bodies about how to manage this resettlement in their areas. MPs across the UK have raised concerns about this lack of local discussion with the Committee. Too often it meant that some vulnerable people, including families with children, have been living in accommodation that did not meet their needs for far too long—and risks masking an underlying problem in ensuring adequate accommodation for people when they first apply. The Department is paying an estimated 28% more to providers than COMPASS, and now needs to assure itself and demonstrate it is getting value for both the taxpayer and those who rely on its services.
Published: 20 November 2020