PRESS RELEASE: 19th Jan. 2023: ELEVEN YEAR OLD CHILD MAY END UP HOMELESS AS SERCO REFUSES TO PROVIDE ALTERNATIVE ASYLUM ACCOMMODATION
- RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research)
19th January 2023
RAPAR PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Eleven year old child may end up homeless as Serco refuses to provide alternative asylum accommodation
For nearly three months, the Home Office's asylum accommodation provider Serco has insisted that a family - including an 11 year old child - returns to one of its "contingency hotels" or remains homeless.
The father, a political refugee from Balochistan, went on a 35 day hunger strike in early November to publicise the plight of hotel residents in asylum hotel accommodation in Stockport.
Serco is demanding that the family return to the hotel accommodation despite reports of serious Safeguarding concerns in at least two North West hotels.
o Asylum seekers: Scabies and abuse at Stockport hotel, council claims - on the BBC
o Asylum seeker on hunger strike against 'inhumane' treatment at Stockport hotel - on ITV News
o RAPAR's June 2022 open letter to Manchester City Council City Solicitor
Stockport Council itself has expressed deep concerns about the hotel in its area and a former Serco employee has raised similarly serious questions about a "contingency hotel" in Warrington:
o Stockport Council and RAPAR speak out about scabies outbreak, rubbish in corridors and "inhumane treatment" in Serco-run asylum hotel - rapar.co.uk
o Press release: 16th Dec. 2022: Whistleblower speaks out about safeguarding, racism and scabies at Serco’s asylum “hotel” in Warrington - rapar.co.uk
So far, neither Serco nor Greater Manchester police have conducted any form of transparent investigation into the allegations of abuse the family has made relating to the hotel in Stockport.
Since late November, rather than return to any Serco managed hotel, the mother and father have been "sofa surfing" while their child has been looked after by a family friend who lives within commuting distance of the child’s school. But that arrangement will end this weekend and the section 17 assessment of the child’s needs, that is currently being carried out by Stockport Council's social services, is still in progress.
The family needs to be together and both Serco and Stockport Council could step in and secure their safety. The question is - will they do this before the whole family ends up with nowhere to live?
In 2019 the government awarded SERCO government contracts worth £1.9 billion – the biggest ever – for managing more than 5000 properties occupied by people seeking asylum Serco Group PLC wins largest ever contract from UK government worth £1.9bn (proactiveinvestors.co.uk
During Covid, the UK government’s demand for immigration services improved Serco’s previous forecasts of sales and profits. In a trading update SERCO said it expects revenues for 2022 of around £4.5 billion with underlying profits to be around £235 million: Serco Group PLC predicts flat 2023 as Covid work comes to an end
That is just £55 million shy of the total budget that Stockport Council was spending in the same year:
Have your say on Stockport Council’s budget proposals for the next financial year - Stockport Council
The family have said they will go into any adequate accommodation as long as it is not a "contingency hotel" and their child can continue going to school. But so far Serco - which also has asylum housing accommodation in the community - has refused to agree to an alternative and the Home Office has not intervened.
How much would it cost to shelter this child and parents safely while proper investigations into the reports of assault and other serious safeguarding allegations take place? Will Stockport Council step in if Serco continues to refuse the family’s request?
Independent Social Worker and RAPAR Trustee, Steve Anderson, says:
“A key feature of this family's plight and flight from ill treatment is that the substantive help to them has come from the voluntary sector which understands the deficiencies or iniquities of the asylum system. The father had to go on hunger strike to highlight the serious Safeguarding issues affecting each member of his family and others. Serco is still to be investigated.
"Pro bono independent legal and medical advice has helped the family, despite Serco and governmental agencies insisting that the family should return to 'contingency' accommodation and potential further ill-treatment.
"Even more worrying is that the family is split up and the local authority, Stockport, has yet to assess under S17 Children Act 1989 to Safeguard the needs of the child who is living separately from the family. The father is now off his hunger strike and, with his partner, they desperately want to care for their child who is settled in school but emotionally suffering from not living with parents in a new country.
"Will Stockport Children's Service provide appropriate accommodation under S17 or does the child have to go into damaging and costly care with costly legal proceedings to follow? Is Stockport Council so limited in its resources due to central government cuts to its budget?
"Which is more humane and less expensive? Compulsory care for a vulnerable 11 year old or suitable accommodation which will allow the child to continue in their current school and thrive within the family. This is a talented young child and a family who would contribute to our society, if they are helped."
For further information contact:
Kath Grant on 07865713474
Dr Rhetta Moran on 07776264646
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org