On 8th August, Yorkshire & Humberside transitioned onto the new AIRE (advice, issue-reporting and eligibility) and AASC (accommodation & support) contracts, meaning the services delivered by Migrant Help and Mears respectively under these new contracts are now live in our region.
This means that service users living in Yorkshire & Humberside should contact the new Migrant Help phoneline 0808 8010 503 (available 24/7 365 days per year) for all issues and enquiries including:
- Eligibility, Advice and Guidance (e.g. how to claim asylum, navigating the asylum process, applying for asylum support (including accommodation), finding legal representation, accessing healthcare, and other asylum and post-asylum claim related matters)
- Issue reporting of property maintenance issues in asylum accommodation
- Issue reporting of payment issues (e.g. unreceived, lost or stolen ASPEN card, incorrect payment received, PIN forgotten)
- To request assistance (e.g. if there is a risk to a person’s health or wellbeing)
- To provide feedback or to make a complaint- this can be regarding services delivered by the accommodation provider (Mears), the payment provider (Sodexo), the Home Office or the AIRE provider themselves (Migrant Help).
Migrant Help Move-on Support and Outreach Services are also now live.
Referrals for face-to-face support through the Outreach Service can be made via the Migrant Help phoneline or by submitting a vulnerability referral form via email to [email protected]. To request a form, or for more info, contact [email protected].
Service users receiving positive or negative decisions on their asylum claim will be contacted by Migrant Help for Move-on Support. Migrant Help are encouraging the VCS to re-refer any service users who have received a decision from 8th August onwards but who have not yet engaged with the AIRE Move-on Support via the Migrant Help phoneline.
The AASC provider in Yorkshire & Humberside, Mears, are now in operation. This means all property maintenance issues reported to Migrant Help via the phoneline above will be routed to Mears to resolve. It also means that Mears are now managing all moves to properties in the region, including from IA in Wakefield and those newly eligible for asylum accommodation in region.
Service User moves
Mears have managed to procure all properties in Y&H and over the next few weeks will be continuing to ensure contractual standards are met in these properties. Therefore we are anticipating very low numbers of service users will be moved from their current accommodation. In the North East, part of our conjoined NEYH region, this has not been the case, with up to 3800 service users likely to be imminently housed in temporary accommodation due to failed negotiations between Mears and a subcontractor over property procurement. Mears have given assurances that these service users will be moved to temporary and then permanent accommodation within their current local authorities in the NE.
The moves that we can expect to take place in Y&H will likely be over the course of the next few months. These moves will either be temporary, as work is carried out to make improvements to properties, or permanent, if landlords subcontracted by Mears are unprepared to invest in upgrading their properties as requested by the provider. Mears have confirmed that any service users moved to new properties will remain in their current area, with access to the same services e.g. schools.
Current maintenance issues in properties
Mears carried out inspections on all properties in the region 3 months ago. It’s worth noting that Mears will not be aware of any property maintenance issues that have arisen since these inspections were carried out, even if they were reported previously to G4S. Therefore any property maintenance issues that were reported over the past 3 months should be reported again via the Migrant Help phoneline so that Mears are aware of them and can resolve them.
Property standards going forward
Mears have a clear plan in place to bring all properties in line with the standards set out in the new contracts over the next few weeks.
Beyond this, they have given assurances that they will carry out decorative work on any properties that they deem to require upgrading beyond contractual requirements- to ensure they are hospitable and have durability as asylum accommodation.
Asylum Matters will shortly circulate a briefing on the property standards laid out in the Statement of Requirements of the AASC contract so that service users and their advocates know what to expect in asylum properties, when and how to report any issues, and the timelines within which the provider is contractually obliged to resolve these issues.
Mears Staff Contact Details
Quite a few local partners have reported difficulties contacting G4S Welfare Support Officers who they were previously in contact with regarding specific cases. G4S staff are no longer available to contact, and for the time being any communications should be directed to the Migrant Help phoneline. Over the next few months Mears will be recruiting two Partnership Managers for the region, one covering West Yorkshire and one covering South Yorkshire, as well as a number of Housing Managers and Resident Welfare Officers for each local authority area. Once in post, the Partnership Managers will be linking in with local VCS organisations via multi-agency forums, and will share contact details for the local Housing Managers and Resident Welfare Officers in due course.
In the meantime, for any urgent queries please contact the Head of Partnerships, Juliet Halstead, at [email protected].
We’ve heard reports of some teething issues during the transition period, for example lost instructions for Section 4 accommodation and missing ASPEN cards, which may have fallen through the cracks during the hand over in early August. We encourage all partners to report any issues to Migrant Help via the phoneline and to keep a record of these cases.