Companies let down asylum seekers says Blaenau Gwent MP
4:36pm Friday 25th April 2014 in News
THE Member of Parliament for Blaenau Gwent has criticised the companies responsible for providing asylum seekers with accommodation.
Nick Smith MP and other members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have said vulnerable asylum seekers were left in "unacceptably poor" accommodation following a bungled Home Office project.
Three firms were awarded contracts in March 2012 to provide housing for the UK's 23,000 destitute asylum seekers in an attempt to streamline services and save money.
But a report by the PAC found that two of these, G4S and Serco, had no previous experience of such a role and were not up to the task.
Mr Smith said: "These companies are supposed to deliver better services, but instead they didn't do their jobs and the public have paid for it.
"They need to deliver on their brief, and the Government need to start getting a grip on their contracts."
The three companies - G4S and Serco, along with Clearel, which did have such experience - were brought in to replace 22 separate contracts providing accommodation for asylum seekers, run by 13 different suppliers.
The six new regional contracts were expected to save £140 million over seven years.
But more than a year in the scheme had only saved £8 million.
PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge said that it is unlikely to yield the savings intended.
The PAC also criticised the two companies for failing to inspect and check the properties before taking them over, which led "disruption and confusion" to vulnerable people.
Ms Hodge said: "The standard of the accommodation provided has often been unacceptably poor for a very fragile group of individuals and families.”
James Thorburn of Serco said: “We have worked extremely hard to raise standards... Our top priority is the welfare and wellbeing of almost 10,000 vulnerable asylum applicants in our care.
“We should have done more to confirm that those properties met the necessary standards... We have since improved our inspection and maintenance procedures.”
A G4S Spokesman said: “Since the COMPASS contracts began, we have worked hard to address areas of concern, including making significant investment in improving the standard of accommodation to meet the new requirements. We are fully meeting these and have been doing so for some time.”
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