Ten pregnant women and new mothers housed in “dehumanising” Glasgow asylum accommodation

24 September 2022

Ten pregnant women and mothers with newborns are being housed in a Glasgow guesthouse without adequate food or facilities.

TEN asylum seeking expectant and new mothers have been places in McLays Guest House, where they live in cramped single rooms with no access to kitchen facilities.

Home Office subcontractor Mears attributed the situation to a shortage of suitable housing in the community and said the set up was a “contingency measure” only.

This "contingency" has been going on for months; new mothers are being returned to the guesthouse instead of being found settled accommodation to bring up new born babies.

Women living in the hotel said the food being provided is not fully nutritious for pregnant women with one woman having diabetes she was struggling to control.

They further feared they would not be able to give suitable care to their infants.

As the B&B is fully catered, the women are entitled to £8.24 per week on a pre-paid Asylum Support Enablement Card (ASPEN) card. Some have not yet been given their entitlement so have no funds.

They have had no baby box, and no support or resources to prepare for their baby, which every mother wants to do. This has been going on for months.

“At a time when all of us can see the need for Ukrainian war refugees to receive benefits, the right to work, and support to resettle, why is the Home Office and its accommodation subcontractor Mears Group treating expectant and new mothers who are also fleeing war or persecution war refugees, and happen to be non-European and of colour, in such a dehumanising way. The accommodation of large numbers of pregnant women in hotels with no specific support in place is inappropriate and potentially dangerous.”

Mears claims that “all” of the families’ requirements are met, including bottles, changing mats and nappies, and that residents are signposted to charities for help with clothing and prams.

Mears fails to address the fact that the rooms are too small to hold baby equipment, and there is nowhere in the rooms to make up baby feeds. The most basic risk assessment would highlight the dangers of housing a large number of expectant and new mothers in a single guesthouse for up to 100 "guests". What happens if there is a fire or fire alarm? Do they really think that heavily pregnant women, and mothers with their newborns can safely exit using stairs? A crowded bed and breakfast accommodation is no place to bring up a new born. The women and babies need the peace and privacy of their own home, the convenience and hygiene of their own kitchen. It's a fragile time, mothers need this support so that babies can be well looked after.

The women, mostly from African nations such as Sierra Leone, Somalia and Namibia, are understood to include three women residing in McLay’s who are in hospital and have given birth, five pregnant women in McLays, and two others who have just given birth and returned to the hotel instead of their own private accommodation.

One woman, who has now given birth, told The Herald she would have to take her baby into bed with her as the room as too small for a cot. She had to declined some equipment for her newborn as there was no place to keep it.

While the women said they were grateful for the support and accommodation they had been given, they were concerned for their children.

Another woman, in her early 20s, had slept on the streets for a month before being housed in McLays.

She described the monotony of her daily routine, made worse by having no access to funds.

“In the hotel you have the same routine of living every day. You eat the same food every day, it’s the same lifestyle, nothing changes. I would not want to be heavily pregnant out there [on the streets] but going through the things we are going through and having to live this uptight life that you just have to stick to it, it’s really not easy. I get up and go for breakfast and then if I have no morning sickness and don’t feel tired I walk around. But if I feel ill then I stay in my room and wait for lunch and then stay in my room and wait for dinner.”

Positive Action in Housing has organised hospital bags for the expectant mothers and volunteers to provide one-to-one support for each woman while the charity’s Emergency Relief Fund is providing funds for clothing, nutritious food and baby items.

Robina Qureshi from Positive Action in Housing said: 

"The Home Office use of hotels as accommodation for expectant mothers and mothers with newborns is dangerous and unacceptable. We are petitioning the Home Office to provide private accommodation for the new families. We have dealt with similar cases over the past year in Glasgow, and midwives have persistently described bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels as “completely unsuitable. In addition, they will require safe sleeping arrangements for the baby. It breaches the most basic human rights and jeopardises the most vulnerable of children.”

A Mears spokesperson said:

“We are currently accommodating a small number of pregnant service users, and service users with young children on a short term basis at the McLays Guest House, while we arrange suitable alternative accommodation.”

A Home Office spokesperson added:

Pregnant women and mothers of newborns who are seeking asylum and are destitute are provided with support whilst we consider their claim, including free accommodation, utilities and a weekly allowance. New mothers can apply for additional financial support.”

The original article By Catriona Stewart/The Herald can be found behind the PayWall here.

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