Serco loses asylum housing contract in Scotland after lock change row
A company caught up in a lock-changing row has lost its asylum accommodation contract for Scotland.
Serco, which was contracted by the Home Office, will cease delivering the accommodation north of the border from September, with the contract now awarded to Mears Group.
Private provider Serco was criticised in summer 2018 after it announced a rolling lock change eviction process for those not given refugee status in Glasgow in the summer of 2018.
It announced a pause on the plans in the face of legal challenges against the evictions at the Court of Session and Glasgow Sheriff Court.
The Scottish Refugee Council welcomed the news about the new contract.
Its policy officer Graham O’Neill said: “It is time for a new approach and in Glasgow we welcome this new chapter in supporting people seeking refugee protection.
“Providing housing to people in need is an essential public service and the rights, needs and dignity of people seeking refugee protection must be at the heart of the work of the Mears Group as they take over from Serco.
“We want to see the new housing provider working collaboratively with Glasgow City Council, sharing decision-making with the council and working transparently with local services and communities.
“With these assurances in place we look forward to working alongside the Mears Group to make sure that anyone seeking refugee protection in Scotland is able to begin rebuilding their lives in safe, secure and appropriate accommodation.”
Mears Group said its focus was on housing management, repairs and domiciliary care.
Julia Rogers, managing director of Serco’s immigration business, said: “We are obviously disappointed not to have won the competition in Scotland.
“Despite what some commentators have said, I know that our team in Glasgow has delivered a service that has seen the asylum seekers in our care treated with dignity and respect and provided with accommodation that not only meets all the required standards, but is some of the most heavily inspected in the country.
“Our employees who are residents and constituents of Glasgow, have always been totally professional in circumstances that were at times very challenging and I am proud of them all.
“Our job now is to complete the contract to the highest standard over the next nine months and hand over to the new provider in September.”
Jennifer Layden, Glasgow’s city convener for equalities and human rights, said: “Given the UK Government remains ideologically wedded to the privatisation of the asylum accommodation contracts, the Home Office must now commit to ensuring that Mears performs significantly better than their predecessors in providing support to vulnerable people, and, crucially, how they approach partnership working with the council.”
The contract was one of seven Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contracts (AASC), awarded to different providers in the UK by the Government at Westminster, following what it described as an “open and fair” procurement exercise.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: “The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it and these new contracts will make sure that asylum seekers are treated with dignity and respect in safe, secure and suitable accommodation.
“They will deliver compassionate support through a new integrated service and make the asylum system more accessible and easier to navigate.
“We consulted extensively with local authorities and NGOs to make sure that the contracts not only protect vulnerable asylum seekers but also deliver value for money for the taxpayer.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.