Thank you for contacting me in relation to asylum accommodation contracts.
As you will know, the Government are weeks away from signing new contracts that will determine the quality of asylum accommodation support for the next 10 years. This is an incredible opportunity for small but significant improvements to be made to provisions that are already in place. It is also an opportunity for ensuring service providers are delivering what they are supposed to deliver and to treat asylum seekers with the dignity and respect that we would expect for our own families.
However, under current contracts this is not always the case. Contractors are getting away with not providing the most basic of services because there is a lack of monitoring. There have been numerous calls on the Government to step up on monitoring and to work in partnership with local authorities and third sector organisations to ensure that asylum seekers get the services that they are entitled to.
I was pleased to be able to attend, and speak, in the recent debate on this issue. One of the issues that was raised in the debate was about asylum seekers having to share a bedroom with someone who was of a different culture, different nationality, or a different religion. Quite often someone who is a victim of torture is forced to share a room. The point I raised on the issue is that the Home Office fails to effectively share information with accommodation providers and it should be the responsibility of the Home Office to ensure their contractors are not putting people in desperately inappropriate places. Any new contracts should require the Home Office to share information and that the accommodation providers should act on it accordingly. You can read my question and the debate here.
Accommodation for asylum seekers need to be safe and habitable. However these are relative assessment factors. As you may know, there have been cases in this country where there has been a lack of access to suitable nutritious food, drinking water, and a clean, hygienic environment. All of these are required under the current contracts. There are also examples of bullying from staff at large accommodation facilities. There needs to be a complaints management system that provides ways for asylum seekers to raise complaints instead of being threatened with removal by the Home Office.
I can assure you that I will continue to push the Government to make sure that the asylum accommodation contracts are safe and meet individual’s needs, but also that the contracts are monitored properly and appropriately.