MP Helen Hayes says Barry House, a hostel in her constituency for people seeking asylum or refugee status, is not fit for purpose.
She told fellow MPs in a debate on asylum accommodation contracts that at Barry House:
Conditions are cramped;
There is no variation in or quality to the food;
There are no meaningful activities for residents.
“It is very poorly managed, there are infestations of vermin, and it is dirty.”
The Dulwich and West Norwood MP also told of:
The Red Cross employee now living in Barry House shot four times by Hezbollah who should not be having to appeal a refusal by the Home Office to allow him to remain in the UK;
High levels of physical disability and mental ill health.
Helen Hayes called for financial penalties if necessary against companies running asylum accommodation – and for councils to be empowered and funded to step in if the issues are not addressed.
She told fellow MPs: “I rise to speak because my constituency is home to Barry House, a hostel for people seeking asylum or refugee status in the UK, provided by Clearsprings under the existing contract.
“Barry House is categorised as initial accommodation, and it provides a temporary home for more than 100 people. “I see many residents of Barry House in my surgeries, and I have visited it with an NHS team who provide outreach services there.
“When I visited I was told that there were 19 pregnant women and 40 children living there at that time. “The information I have gathered from residents of Barry House speaks to a much wider set of problems with the current asylum contract.
BOLD “Barry House is for short-term use, but the reality is that many people are there for long periods. “Barry House is not fit for purpose. “Conditions are cramped, there is no variation in or quality to the food, and there are no meaningful activities for residents.
“The corridors are obstructed by many buggies and there are a high number of wheelchair users, leading to concerns about fire safety and basic standards of accessibility.
“It is very poorly managed. “There are infestations of vermin, and it is dirty. “Everything about the quality of accommodation is poor, yet there is no accountability.
When complaints are raised there is no response, and it is left to the council’s environmental health team to undertake inspections when things get really bad.
“Barry House is not suitable for children, despite there being so many children and pregnant women staying there. “It is difficult to place children in local schools as there is no guarantee on how long they will be there.
“There is no support with language tuition and no support for the many people living at Barry House who are deeply traumatised by the experiences and situations from which they have fled.
“There is no structured access to health facilities. “A dedicated team from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust provides what support it can, but support for access to maternity services and any other type of specialist service is difficult to secure and very patchy.
“Many residents of Barry House have been through levels of trauma and hardship that is hard to comprehend. “There are high levels of physical disability and mental ill health.
“The instability, hardship and sheer monotony of having to spend long periods at Barry House or in accommodation like it is no way to treat people who are fleeing conflict or persecution.
“The new contract must address the current problems. “There must be a service standard for the time scale on which people are forced to stay in initial accommodation such as Barry House—a time after which they must be moved to suitable accommodation.
“There must be proper accountability for the quality of accommodation. “When overcrowding, infestations, damp, dirt or poor quality food are raised, the providers must be held to account, with financial penalties if necessary. “Councils must be empowered and funded to step in if the issues are not addressed.
“There must be funding for emergency short-term psychological support for people suffering trauma. “It is simply not acceptable for people with high levels of mental health need as a consequence of their experiences to be left to cope on their own.
“There must be provision in situ for language teaching, early years activity for children and education, where school places cannot be provided.
“There is a relationship between the situation at Barry House and the wider dysfunctionality of the Home Office. “People are at Barry House for long periods partly because their applications are not being determined, or because applications are refused and they must appeal.
“The constituent I saw a few weeks ago who, as a Red Cross employee, was shot four times by Hezbollah in Lebanon, should not be appealing a refusal by the Home Office.
“The way that the Government treat those who seek asylum in the UK is part of the wider hostile environment. “There is no support, comfort or dignity, and the UK can and must do better than this.”
During the debate Helen Hayes “put on the record the very serious concerns raised by Freedom from Torture and others about the lack of medical expertise in the asylum assessment process, which, in large part, is a cause of the inaccurate decisions that her department is making.
Responding, Caroline Nokes the minister for immigration, said: “I thank the hon. Lady for putting that on the record. I have a comment on the medical processes somewhere in my notes. “I may not find it in the course of the next few minutes, but I will try to.
“Of course we can—at all times and in all ways—improve on our systems, and I am absolutely determined that we will find better ways to ensure that information can be brought forward earlier.” ( Asylum Accommodation Contracts 10 Oct 2018 Westminster Hall Source: TheyWorkForYou / Hansard)
HEALTH SERVICES CHARGES FOR IMMIGRANTS
In a House of Commons question on October 18th Helen Hayes asked how the figure of around £470 for the average annual cost of NHS usage by people paying the immigration health surcharge was calculated.
Responding, Stephen Barclay, minister of state (Department of Health and Social Care), said: “The Department has reviewed the cost to the National Health Service in England of treating those who pay the surcharge, and estimates that the NHS spends on average £470, per surcharge payer, per annum.
“The Department looked at actual data on surcharge-payers who use the NHS and their length of stay in the United Kingdom between April 2015 and December 2017 inclusive, and estimated the NHS costs of treating the average surcharge payer.
“The estimated average primary and secondary care cost across all surcharge payers including those who did not access health services was around £470 per person per annum.” (Source: TheyWorkForYou / Hansard)