Housing conditions condemned by watchdog

Written By: James Douglas
Published: February 11, 2017 Last modified: February 11, 2017

The home affairs select committee has warned that the current contract system for asylum accommodation isn’t working and major reforms are needed.

The MPs branded the state of some units provided by Government contractors a “disgrace” and said it is “shameful” that vul­ner­able people had been placed in such conditions.

Problems identified in the committee’s probe included:  infestations of mice, rats and bedbugs; families unable to put their children down on dirty carpet and rotten sofas; and women in the late stages of pregnancy being placed in rooms up several flights of stairs or being made to share a bedroom.

The committee said contractors were housing more people than they were funded for because of the contract design, growing delays in Home Office asylum processing and higher numbers of applications. Asylum claimants are concentrated in a small number of the most deprived areas with many local authorities not participating, which is deeply unfair.

It also found that inspection, compliance and complaints regimes are inadequate, and that accommodation funding is much lower than for the Syrian refugees scheme, leading to a two tier system particularly for refugees once asylum claims are concluded.

The Committee recommended immediate action to improve standards and monitoring, including giving local authorities powers of inspection; higher standards and new penalties, along wiith immediate action by the Home Office to speed up processing so fewer people need asylum accommodation.

Committee chair Yvette Cooper said: “The state of accommodation for some asylum seekers and refugees is a disgrace, and the current contract system just isn’t working. Major reforms are needed. We have come across too many examples of vulnerable people in unsafe accommodation. No one should be living in conditions like that.

“Even where the accommodation and support are of a good standard, it is still far too concentrated in the most deprived areas. It is unfair on those local authorities and communities that have signed up and are now taking many more people, when so many local authorities in more affluent areas are still doing nothing.”