G4S and Serco fail to properly house asylum seekers
According to the National Audit Office (NAO), G4S and Serco were said to be failing to provide adequate housing for vulnerable asylum seekers or acquire habitable properties for them to live in with the government seeking to recover a rebate of £4m from Serco and £3m from G4S because of its poor performance.
The Guardian reported that Auditors are concerned that the outsourcing of housing provision for asylum seekers has also led to some claimants who earn above the legal threshold being given homes while other more needy families are losing out.
The Refugee Council chief executive, Maurice Wren, said: "Asylum seekers are often people who have fled horrifying experiences in their own countries and have lost everything. They do not get a choice where they live and are totally reliant on the Compass contractors to ensure that their properties are safe for them and their families to live in."
They continued, "Failure to provide adequate accommodation is always unacceptable. It's essential the Home Office sets clear standards, provides the resources required to deliver them and is tough on contractors who fail to meet them."
Auditors raised concerns after an inquiry into government contracts with private companies including Serco providing accommodation for asylum seekers. The Home Office provides accommodation and support for asylum seekers in the UK who are assessed as being "destitute". As of April last year, the Home Office provided accommodation for around 23,000 asylum seekers with around 60% receiving financial support from the department.
At the end of 2012, the former UK Border Agency (UKBA) replaced 22 separate contracts provided by 13 different suppliers with six contracts, which were divided between Serco and two other companies. The move was known as the Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services (Compass) project and was supposed to save public money.
Serco struggled throughout preparations for and during the transition, auditors found, causing continued uncertainty for asylum seekers. The firm took on housing stock without inspecting it and subsequently found that many of these properties did not meet the contractual quality standards, auditors said. The outsourcers failed to meet contractual standards in some areas, the report said, such as finding properties for asylum seekers in a set timescale and on property conditions.
The report also disclosed that Serco was pushing for the government to allow them to expand into new areas outside the agreed postcodes for taking on asylum seekers.
In its report, the spending watchdog said officials had visited homes where it was obvious that the asylum seeker's level of income was more than the threshold set to entitle an asylum seeker to housing. "There is a risk that individuals or families may be occupying properties to which they are not entitled, thus taking resources away from those more in need," the NAO found.
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