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Housing Asylum Seekers in Private Accommodation: Angel, UKBA and Helen Bih


You might remember the case of Helen Bih, a disabled woman seeking asylum, whose case was highlighted by the evening times in September 2010.

Over a period of 13 months, the Angel Group, subcontracted to the UK Borders Agency, moved Helen repeatedly into unsuitable housing without considering her mobility problems or her disability. As a result, none of the properties that Helen was moved to were suitable. When PAiH visited Helen, she was frequently unable to use her Azure card because she could not get to the local Asda due to her mobility problems. She often relied on handouts for food. At one point in, Helen could not leave her accommodation to collect her Azure card for four weeks, because the accommodation had steps inside and outside the property, which was also miles away from any community support.

She would have starved were it not for a chance visit by a doctor from the Medical Foundation was able to bring her some groceries. The reaction of the UK Borders Agency to Helen not collecting her Azure card was to threaten to stop her support altogether on the grounds that Helen “failed” to collect her Azure card.
When PAiH took up Helen’s case, she had not showered for four months; she could not use the shower. She could not sit at the kitchen table or sit on the sofa. The toilet was inaccessible to her and she had to use a commode in her bedroom and wait for carers to empty it in the morning. She needed step free accommodation and was on morphine. Angel Group offered Helen alternative accommodation when her existing flat was flooded and became a fire risk. She turned it down because it was inaccessible because of a deep step at the entrance (Helen is on crutches). The Angel Group told us that it was only “one step” and it was Helen’s “choice” to turn the property down and return to a flooded property.  They accused her of “visiting a friend” when they came to pick her up, implying she had no mobility problems.

In fact the “friends” were volunteers from a local refugee group who carried her upstairs to their accommodation so she did not have to sleep in a flooded flat.
Once PAiH took up her case, Helen was referred to Social Work and moved into step free Glasgow City Council accommodation within days. The Social work department ordered an assessment of Helen’s disability needs and her accommodation was adapted accordingly.
PAiH asked Angel Group why they did not refer Helen to Social Work earlier, and were informed that it is not their job, it is the UKBA’s job. Helen Bih is now at risk of being moved from her council accommodation back into the hands of private accommodation contractors.
The council acted swiftly to provide Helen the support she needed. There is no comparison. The UKBA and its sub contractor the Angel Group acted carelessly and neglectfully in our view by not considering Helen Bih’s disability needs.
The Council accommodation is regulated and provides additional support structures. The goal of private accommodation contractors is purely to profiteer from the most vulnerable people in our society. They are unable to compete with the quality of service that the Council offers.
The Angel Group got £23 million from the UKBA to provide accommodation to asylum seekers in Scotland. 

Helen Bih is one of those who risks being moved back into accommodation provided by private accommodation contractors.



1. More than 1000 Glasgow asylum seekers have been told they could be removed from their homes in the city and sent elsewhere in Scotland with just a few days’ notice « STAR GLASGOW - November 12, 2010

[…] to take responsibility for housing people are Angel and Y People, both of whom have a really terrible track record in the standard of housing provided and the quality of service given to people.   This means the […]

2. nicola - April 26, 2011

hi im wondering are you looking for any volenteers to help my email is pretty.fish@live.co.uk

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