The Public Accounts Committee publishes its 54th report, COMPASS: provision of asylum accommodation with evidence from Expert Witnesses from: Serco, G4S Care and Justice Services UK Ltd, and Clearsprings .
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
“The Home Office decided to replace 22 separate contracts to provide accommodation for destitute asylum seekers with six regional contracts in order to save £140 million over 7 years. The change was poorly planned and badly managed and is unlikely to yield the savings intended.
Three contractors secured the new big contracts. Two, G4S and Serco, had no previous experience of accommodating asylum seekers. Instead of brokering a smooth transition between outgoing and incoming contractors and with local authorities, the Home Office short-sightedly decided to take a hands-off approach and only allowed three months to get the new contracts up and running.
G4S and Serco failed to inspect and check the properties before taking them over. This lack of information contributed to delays, extra cost, and disruption and confusion for a very vulnerable group of service users.
The Home Office’s decision to rely on fewer and larger contractors was risky and lies at odds with the Government’s stated commitment to encourage SMEs to deliver public services. The knowledge of experienced specialist providers has been lost and there are fewer alternative options available to the Department if the contractor fails.
The standard of the accommodation provided has often been unacceptably poor for a very fragile group of individuals and families. The companies failed to improve quality in a timely manner. None of this was helped by the Department’s failure to impose penalties on contractors in the transition period. It is disturbing that over a year into the contract the accommodation is still not of the required standard and the Department has only chalked up £8 million in savings.
Progress was also hampered by the failure of the Home Office and its contractors to establish a proper working partnership and to share necessary information, such as forecasts of demand for asylum accommodation.
Looking beyond the COMPASS contracts, the Home Office must insist adequate plans are in place for how it will manage the introduction of any new contracts in the future, including an understanding of what will be inherited from previous contractors, and clear arrangements for exiting previous arrangements.”
Margaret Hodge was speaking as the Committee published its 54th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Home Office and its three contractors, G4S, Serco and Clearel, examined the provision of asylum accommodation, following the introduction of the new COMPASS contracts in March 2012.
Expert witness contributors to the latest report into provision of asylum accommodation were:
James Thorburn, Managing Director, Home Affairs, Serco, Stephen Small, Managing Director, Immigration and Borders, G4S Care and Justice Services UK Ltd, and James Vyvyan-Robinson, Managing Director, Clearsprings
Mark Sedwill, Permanent Secretary, Home Office, John Fernau, Commercial Director, Home Office, and Glyn Williams, Director of Asylum, Home Office
Click the link below for the full report and details of recommendations and conclusions