Report on asylum accommodation provision

By Agencies
November 22, 2018

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published his report on the Home Office’s management of asylum accommodation provision. To accompany the report he made the following statement: 

For several reasons, not least the difficulty of extracting evidence from the Home Office, this inspection proved more challenging than most. My report is likely to please no-one. It was clear from the Home Office’s response to the draft report that this topic touched a nerve. It considered my criticisms unfair and believed its efforts had not been fully recognised.

Meanwhile, I suspect that the many non-government organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders engaged with asylum accommodation, and those living in it, will feel that the report has not gone far enough in challenging the standards of accommodation and support provided.

Discussions with the Home Office, the commercial providers, NGOs and asylum seekers about particular properties showed just how difficult it was to agree on what constituted “an acceptable standard” of accommodation, and how equally difficult it was for the parties to remain objective and to trust each other’s intentions and actions.

The overriding impression from this inspection was of many individuals – from the Home Office, the Providers, NGOs and voluntary groups, statutory services and local authorities  up and down the UK, working hard to do their best for those in asylum accommodation, but often with quite different perspectives and priorities.

The system will always rely on collaboration, but it is the Home Office that holds most of the keys – to easing demand on asylum accommodation through more efficient management of asylum claims; to standardising data capture and improving information flows; to ensuring policies and practices support and protect the most vulnerable; to driving a UK-wide dispersal strategy for asylum seekers and refugees that engages more local authorities.

For all its efforts, this inspection found the Home Office too accepting of the limitations of the current COMPASS contracts and how things are, and too optimistic that the work it has in hand and the new contracts would bring about improvements.

In reality, there is much more that it can and should be doing now, before September 2019 when the new contracts start. Otherwise, the same underlying issues with asylum accommodation are likely to persist, whatever benefits the new contracts may deliver.

I have made nine recommendations, some of them time-sensitive. My report was sent to the Home Secretary on 9 July 2018. While it has accepted all of my recommendations, the Home Office’s formal response (published with this report) looks to underplay the evidence of poor accommodation standards. This is unhelpful when it comes to building trust.

Responding to the report, Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “We are deeply concerned by some of the findings of this report, perhaps all the more so because of their familiarity. Yet again we are hearing of people seeking asylum – some of the most vulnerable in our society  having to live in accommodation that is of terrible quality. These findings are not new by any stretch but echo a whole series of concerns that have been raised by a multitude of stakeholders for some time.

"Whilst a concrete assurance plan is welcome, as is the recognition by the Home Office that some people have specific needs that should be considered by safeguarding experts, it has ignored the point made about people being routinely placed, with no choice, in the same room or same long term accommodation as unrelated adults. We support the recommendation that this policy is reviewed."

* Read the Inspectors's report here

* Read the Home Office's response here

* Refugee Council

* Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

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