City of Sanctuary Sheffield and Tees Valley of Sanctuary were two of 42 organisations who co-published Wake Up Call – a new report that sets out the chronic failings in the introduction of the new asylum support and accommodation contracts; and the severe consequences for people seeking asylum. It provides an important exposure of failings and includes recommendations which is why we hope that network groups will pass this report to their MPs along with their concerns.
Towards the end of 2019, the asylum accommodation and support system was almost fatally disrupted by the transition from one set of government contracts to another.
People seeking asylum began to experience unacceptable and entirely avoidable destitution.
Wake Up Call details what went wrong and provides suggestions for how the Home Office can go about mending this broken system.
The report draws on their collective evidence submitted to the National Audit Office (NAO) investigation into the contracts. These include:
- Impossible hold times on the advice line: One charity said it had to wait 13 hours 40 minutes on hold between just three clients;
- Appalling delays receiving asylum support: Refugee Action said it took on average 40 days for destitute people it supported to receive financial support and/or accommodation between July 2019 and January 2020. It added on average people waited an extra 15 days to receive their prepaid Aspen cards, which are used by people seeking asylum to shop;
- Terrible accommodation standards: one charity said a family with a disabled daughter was moved to a flat on the fourth floor; in another case a mother and her child were sent to a home without any furnishings, white goods, or equipment to cook;
- Long stays in contingency accommodation: during the troubled transition the new contractors began using more contingency accommodation to house people, resulting in a lack of dignity for people in such accommodation, risks to mental and physical health, and people living in unsuitable accommodation for lengthy periods.
Many of these problems are reflected in the NAO’s own report, also published on 3 July, which reiterates that during the transition, people seeking asylum faced difficulties accessing appropriate accommodation and specialist support and advice.
See also this article in The Independent.
For further information and to download the report see the Asylum Matters and Refugee Action websites.