The Home Office (the Department) provides accommodation and support for asylum seekers and their families who would otherwise be destitute while their cases are processed. From 2012 to September 2019, the Department provided these services through six regional contracts, known as COMPASS. In 2019, following a two-year extension to the original contracts, the Department replaced COMPASS with seven similar regional contracts for accommodation and transport, plus a UK-wide contract for a new helpline and support service, known as AIRE—Advice, Issue Reporting and Eligibility. The Department provided services to 48,000 people in accommodation at the time the contracts transferred. The new contracts have a total estimated value of £4.0 billion over 10 years, from 2019 to 2029.
A sharp increase in the number of people entering the asylum support system from July 2019 meant that from October 2019 more than 1,000 people each night were placed in hotels rather than dedicated housing for asylum seekers. The AIRE service could not cope with demand in its initial months, with four-fifths of callers unable to get through on the phone. The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in additional demand pressures on the service.
Published: 20 November 2020