Asylum seeker housing scheme ‘poorly managed’ – PAC

Asylum seekers in the UK were placed in “unacceptably poor” housing due to a “poorly managed” Home Office scheme, a new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has revealed. 

In March 2012 the Home Office cut the number of asylum accommodation providers. The previous 22 contracts, handled by suppliers from across the private and voluntary sectors and local authorities, were replaced by six regional contracts, known collectively as COMPASS, delivered by three prime contractors – G4S, Serco and Clearel each of which has two contracts.  

However, the ‘COMPASS provision of asylum accommodation’ report revealed that only Clearel had previous experience of running asylum accommodation. It also criticised the Home Office’s decision to rely on fewer, larger contractors as it was “risky and has so far led to delays in providing suitable accommodation”. 

A Home Office spokesperson told PSE: “While we accept there are challenges with the contracts, we are disappointed with the PAC’s findings and will respond in due course. 

“Our new COMPASS contracts are generating vital savings to the taxpayer – £8m was saved in the first six months of operation and further significant savings are predicted for 2013/14.” 

PAC says the savings achieved are far below the target, which is to save £140m over seven years. The MPs on the committee have called on the Home Office to learn from its mistakes and not change a contracting model in future without a "clear business case" justifying the decision. 

Committee chair Margaret Hodge MP said: “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 £8m in savings.” 

Other PAC recommendations include that the Home Office must insist adequate plans are in place for how it manages the introduction of new contracts; it should re-examine its savings forecasts in the light of the additional costs to make sure these are still realistic and achievable; and must clearly understand what data is needed to effectively let and manage contracts such as these, and ensure that such data is available and accurate.

Hodge added: “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.” 

(Library image of Home Office HQ)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest news

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

23/06/2020Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

Evolution is crucial in any business and Public Sector Executive is no different. Long before Covid-19 even became a thought in the back of our minds, the team at PS... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

public sector events

events calendar


August 2020

mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6

featured articles

View all News