Vulnerable women and children, many of them victims of human traffickers, are being forced to live in sub-standard unsuitable hotel accommodation – and the Government needs to urgently put this right, said Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham tonight at an Adjournment Debate secured by him on the provision of services for vulnerable women and children asylum seekers.
At the debate Alex spoke of the conditions of the hotels – described as “short-term” accommodation despite the fact some people are housed there for months – including rooms a few metres square, no private washing and toilet facilities, and no provision to cook food. Alex detailed how charities were warning him that some of the women were suffering malnutrition and seeing a negative impact to their mental health.
Although Alex welcomed the news that Mears, who have the asylum seeking accommodation contract in Stockton, had given notice on one of the hotels following a meeting with him, the MP highlighted the fact that promises had been made before and called on Ministers to monitor this progress.
Alongside this ask, Alex called on the Minister to:
- Commit to the publication of a detailed performance management review of asylum seeker contracts;
- Carry out a review of the quality and delivery of accommodation;
- Reassess the criteria for allocating accommodation;
- Address “long-standing” structural issues in the management and provision of contracts.
“Stockton-on-Tees is a welcoming borough with our people, charities and organisations providing all a manner of support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society – often stepping in when Home Office provision falls short.
“However the accommodation provided to some – including women who have been trafficked and abused – is appalling and far below the standards we should expect. I was pleased Mears took up my concern and gave notice on one sub-par hotel, but it is clear we need to see more from the Government in terms of monitoring contracts and making sure accommodation is fit for purpose.
“We need to give hope to these women and children that whilst we may not be able to provide all they want, we will make sure they are safe, secure, fed and healthy as long as we need to fulfil that duty of care. It is, after all, what we would do for our own.”
In response the Minister, Kevin Foster, confirmed that the Government had agreed to remove people from the accommodation in question and other arrangements were being carried out to ensure women and children were given specialist support services.