Social housing specialist Mears Group PLC has been handed contracts worth £1bn from the UK government. As part of the contract, Mears will be responsible for the upkeep of thousands of homes occupied by new refugees, those just granted leave to remain and asylum seekers at varying stages of the asylum process
The deal is for ten years and covers homes in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber.
Mears group is described as the 2nd biggest social housing “specialist” in the UK employing over 12,000 people.
“We are delighted to have secured these contracts having already allocated significant time and resources to this,” said chief executive David Miles.
“We will immediately start work on the mobilisation so that we are ready to meet the needs of asylum seekers and their host communities.”
The new Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contracts (AASCs) are replacing the current COMPASS contracts, which were awarded back in 2012. Serco Group PLC has also been awarded asylum contract worth £1.9bn, which will see it look after asylum housing in the North West of England and the Midlands & East of England. Interestingly SERCO “lost” the Scotland contract.
Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing said:
“It’s interesting that SERCO “lost” the Scotland contract but won millions of pounds worth of asylum housing contracts elsewhere across England. We do not know whether this was a deliberate move by SERCO or the result of a decision made by the Home Office. It’s possible SERCO gave up the Scotland contract because of the public outcry against turning vulnerable people and families onto the streets without following due process.
“SERCO’s contract doesn’t end until September 2019. The court of Session hearing is later this month and remains live, the human rights of new refugees and asylum seekers at varying stages of the asylum process remains pertinent. Does a housing provider – private or social – have the right to lock a human being and their family out of their homes on the mere assumption of their entitlement without following due process?
“Its a bit premature to “welcome” the new contract to Mears Group – the history of private run asylum contracts in this city is about the abuse of human rights.
“Certainly we would like to see a copy of the Mears Group eviction or lock out policy and find out how much the Mears Group is being paid per night for each person seeking asylum or granted refugee status or leave to remain. We’d also like to be assured by both private and social landlord bodies in Scotland that they will ensure that any contracts with Mears Group prohibit changes to fixtures and fittings, ie lock changes or eviction without due process.
“We will be watching with interest to see if Mears Group follow the basic principles of social housing when it comes to the housing of new refugees and asylum seekers at varying stages of the legal process.”
In August, Serco announced a pause on the plans in the face of legal challenges against the evictions at the Court of Session and Glasgow Sheriff Court. However, asylum seekers are still receiving letters from Serco saying they must leave their homes.