HERE is the lock-change letter sent by accommodation contractor Serco to police, Glasgow City Council and other agencies.

It was mailed out on Friday to bodies including NHS Scotland, the Scottish Refugee Council and Migrant Help and The National today publishes it in full and unedited.

Hi All

As many of you will be aware, over recent months Serco have been conducting a review in terms of how we manage the process in terms of move on from asylum accommodation for those who the Home Office have determined will not be granted refugee status, and where they have discontinued funding and support, both to the individual themselves and to Serco as the provider of asylum dispersal accommodation.

Historically, the position of Serco has been that lock changes will not be utilised for former asylum seekers who remain insitu following the discontinuation of support. This decision was made as Serco wanted to ensure that where possible individuals were given the opportunity to take proactive steps to submit an appeal to the Home Office.

READ MORE: Home Secretary and Serco under growing pressure over Glasgow asylum seekers

This was in direct opposition to Serco's contractual obligations to UKVI that accommodation should only continue to be provided if both an appeal and an application for further support had been submitted and approved by UKVI before the expiry of the discontinuation notice period. The consequence of this leniency is that as a provider, Serco are now consistently accommodating approximately 250 – 300 former asylum seekers at any given time who have received a negative decision at our own expense,  and who continue to remain for excessive periods following discontinuation whilst not actively pursuing an appeal and further support claim or where an appeal and/or support has been refused by UKVI.

For such cases, there is effectively no next step in terms of their move on from Serco accommodation aside from engaging with UKVI under the voluntary returns programme, which often understandably is not felt an option many wish to explore. Whilst empathetic to the circumstances for such individuals, it is not for Serco to undermine the legal decision that has been issued by the Government in regards to their legal status to remain in the country, nor does it continue to be viable to continue to absorb the cost of accommodating such cases, or allow the utilisation of stock that is critically required for those service users just beginning their asylum journey.

Recent months have seen continuing growth in terms of pressures around intake, and this has been against a backdrop of increasing challenges around procurement in the City. Glasgow City Council continue to be a very trusted and engaged partner, and Serco hugely appreciates their continuing commitment to support asylum seekers and refugees despite the pressures that already exist at a both community and service level. Whilst engagement remains as strong as ever, the ability for Serco to procure in the City is becoming more challenging, and this factor coupled with increasing intake demands, and a significant issue with the overstaying of former asylum seekers, means that there is a growing risk of contingency accommodation having to be resorted to for new asylum applicants.

This is in no way acceptable for the individuals themselves in terms of appropriateness, nor does it promote positive public perception of the asylum programme itself. To date, despite under s.23A asylum dispersal accommodation being categorised as being excluded occupation from compliance with s.23 of the Rent Act 1984 and therefore not requiring legal court action to enforce eviction, Serco have continued to follow the "legal" court route to regain possession of properties. This process is significant in length, very costly and simply does not facilitate the move on of such cases at the pace required to effectively meet intake. Particularly when Serco do not hold any legal or contractual duty to continue to accommodation former asylum cases who have no legal right of occupation in the UK.

READ MORE: Outrage over 'brutal' plan to evict 300 asylum seekers in Glasgow

Over recent months Serco have been working closely with the City Council and the Health and Social Care Partnership in the development of a pathway specifically aimed at those former asylum seekers who have received a negative decision on their asylum application (there is work on-going to “formalise” the positive process also, but this as you know already works well). The intention of this pathway/protocol development is for Serco (as the provider of Asylum Dispersal within Scotland), Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership and Glasgow City Council to work together in partnership to eliminate or drastically reduce the rates of over staying of former asylum households who should no longer be residing within the asylum system, to effectively manage the expectation of service users throughout the asylum journey in relation to their options post decision, and to ensure the safety and protection of those former asylum seeking households in receipt of a negative decision where their vulnerability may infer that duties of care or accommodation may be owed under another legislative framework outside of immigration legislation.

As part of the pathway development, Serco have also reviewed our approach in terms of enforcement process at the end of the journey, and have determined that we will be commencing with the issuing of lock change notices at the expiry of discontinuation NTQ's for those former asylum seekers who have received a negative decision as of w.c 30th July 2018.

Serco, GCC and the HSCP will also begin rolling out the pathway process for asylum cases entering the journey, this ultimately also includes the use of lock change notices being issued at the expiry of the discontinuation notice period for all cases. The pathway itself will ensure that in cases where there is a level of vulnerability that may infer duties of accommodation outside of immigration legislation, they receive an appropriate assessment by the Authority and a decision on this is made before the end of their discontinuation notice period, and/or before any action is taken by Serco to end their accommodation.

If an appeal and request for support are both submitted and approved by the Home Office before the end of the discontinuation period (maximum 21 days), then Serco will not take any steps to enforce at the end of the notice period through a lock change notice being issued. Serco as the provider of asylum accommodation have no role or influence in any appeals  process or timescales in relation to this, and any decision outcome on an appeal is entirely the responsibility of the Home Office. In instances where the Home Office make a decision to reinstate support after a lock change notice has been served or enforced, Serco will either revoke the notice if still within the 7 day notice period or if already evicted will re-accommodate. It is hoped that if immediate action is taken on appeal/further support submissions by service users following decisions being received, this will limit the latter scenario significantly.

READ MORE: Evicting asylum seekers is a disgrace and should be stopped immediately

The pathway itself for future cases will provide information throughout the journey on what to expect at the end of the asylum journey, and continual advice on what steps should be taken at the point of decision being received – be this positive or negative. All cases receiving a negative decision will be advised to submit an appeal and a request for further support within the first week following decision, to maximise the likelihood of success in this regard given that UKVI aim to make a decision on further applications for support within 7 days. Advice will also be provided in terms of which agencies can be accessed to support this process, however Serco cannot force any individual to either access support in this or indeed to pursue a further claim. As such there must be an element of ownership by the individual in pursuing this. To assist in this work, all documentation given during the journey or at the point of decision in relation to move on will be translated into the Top 10 languages, for clarity of understanding and reference. Documents will also continue to be explained upon issuing using an interpreter.

Serco's Customer Relationship Director; Katy Wood, has engaged with Councillor Jennifer Laydon as Executive Member for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the City, along with representatives from GCC and HSCP to explain the pathway development, and the rationale behind the change in approach, as it is understood that there may be political concerns held as this process begins to roll out. Equally, Serco understand that members of the voluntary and community sector will hold concerns about what this will mean for those former asylum seekers who do not wish to engage in voluntary return, and who the Home office have determined have no legal right to remain in the UK. As such Serco want to be clear that this process will be managed sensitively with individuals and there will be a phased roll out for the existing over stayer population. The intention of this process is to ensure that those cases where a vulnerability is present that meets the threshold required for assessment, that they receive an outcome on an assessment prior to action being taken, but also to enable Serco to effectively meet the needs of those service users entering the system and where a duty of care is owed by us.

For any cases where GCC/HSCP determine there would be a duty of accommodation owed under another legislative framework move on will be done in a planned way and in partnership. To support this, Serco and GCC/HSCP colleagues will meet monthly from now on to ensure that such concerns/cases for individuals residing in asylum accommodation are identified  and where appropriate referred to access support at the earliest opportunity – it is hoped that in this way most concerns will be resolved for service users whilst still awaiting an asylum claim outcome.