Dave Smith
New Report from Asylum Matters highlights Serious Failings with Asylum Support Contracts

In their report, Wake Up Call, the organisations say problems that arose during the change almost fatally disrupted the asylum support system, which they say has for years operated on a knife edge and lurches from crisis to crisis. 

Evidence presented to the NAO revealed problems with:

  • 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: the organisations’ report said 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 weeks.

Many of these problems are reflected in the NAO’s own final report, also published on the 3rd July, which reiterates that during the transition, people seeking asylum faced difficulties accessing appropriate accommodation and specialist support and advice.