This letter was originally published by RAPAR on 31 October 2022 and sent by email to the following:
Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of Stockport Council
Cllr Wendy Meikle, Deputy Leader and Lead on Children, Families, Education
Cllr Helen Foster-Grime, Lead Member Communities and Housing
Cllr Keith Holloway, Lead Member Health and Adult Social Care
Caroline Simpson, Chief Executive of Stockport Council
Chris McLoughlin, Director of Children’s Services
Jennifer Connolly, Director of Public Health
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester Race Equality Panel
Navendu Mishra, MP for Stockport
Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish
Mary Robinson, MP for Cheadle
William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove
Stockport Council have now responded, and said that they share RAPAR’s concerns. The Council Leader had previously written to the last Home Secretary (twice) “to outline [their] serious concerns regarding the arrangements in place for temporary and permanent settlement of various communities within Stockport.”
The original letter from RAPAR is reproduced in full below.
Dear Mr Hunter
Profound concerns about safeguarding and security at the Home Office subcontracted SERCO-controlled hotel located within the Stockport Council boundary
I write to you as a member of the Human Rights organisation RAPAR and a Greater Manchester resident.
Over the last ten days several RAPAR members who are in the National Asylum and Support system have begun to share extremely disturbing information about safeguarding and security issues related to the Stockport located SERCO run hotel that houses people seeking asylum. (You will of course know the name and location of this hotel and appreciate that it is not appropriate for me to disclose it in this Open Letter from RAPAR, thereby creating further safeguarding issues. Its identity is included in my cover email to you.)
RAPAR members describe material safeguarding violations alongside some severe and chronic matters that, at the most fundamental level, relate to their safeguarding, for which the Council has statutory responsibility:
- Not all the children of school age living in the hotel are in school.
- The school bus used to transport college aged young people has been stopped and the individual payments of £8 a week is insufficient for transport needs, thereby denying young people their right to access their college education.
- There have been some cases of scabies.
- Residents live in permanent anxiety about acquiring scabies.
- Many children have red spots on their skin, being permanently irritated.
- People, including a child with severe mobility challenges, have been refused transport help to essential hospital appointments.
- The food quality is extremely poor, often inedible and in insufficient quantity. However, residents are not allowed to cook in their rooms and the £8 per week payment per person prohibits the buying of take-out food.
- The food is not cleaned or prepared well. There have been incidents where hair has been found in food and insects found in the vegetables, fruit and cereals.
- Sometimes expired or left-over food is reheated and served.
- Often the food smells offensive.
- Bottled water, fresh vegetables and salads used to be available but they are no longer.
- Some people are diabetic or have cholesterol issues which require special diets but, despite repeated requests, the food selection is not altered.
- The food is served in an unhygienic manner without a glass barrier separating the food and the residents which means that, on many occasions, residents end up touching the serving platters.
Maintenance and cleaning.
- Rooms with heavy water leaks are not dealt with in a timely manner.
- There is an elevator with the buttons pushed in on the first floor that has been left with the wires covered only by a sheet of paper. See photos attached
- Rubbish is left to pile up in the corridors and stairwells of the hotel. See photos attached
- Foul smelling and a fire hazard, these rubbish piles sometimes include women’s hygiene products and used medical needles that have been disposed of improperly and are exposed.
- Residents have suggested alternative ways of managing waste and these suggestions have been ignored by staff.
- At times, the main entrance doors are left without any staff present and emergency door alarms are set off throughout the day.
- Children may go in and out unmonitored through the emergency doors.
- On occasions, non-resident persons have accessed the bedroom areas unmonitored.
- There have been instances when young children have wandered out alone, having occasionally slipped away from their parents. Serco and security staff say it is the exclusive responsibility of parents and then, when challenged about the role of paid staff, they have said the issue will be handled but the children have kept on going out on their own.
- Serco allocates rooms in a mixed fashion with single men living in rooms next to families with young children.
- Serco staff enter rooms without knocking and without permission from occupants.
- In the event of fire some residents, who would be unable to leave safely because they cannot use stairs very easily, they have been allocated rooms above the ground floor.
Freedom of Movement.
- Some people have family members in the UK but they are not allowed to leave the hotel for the amount of time that is needed in order for them to visit with their families.
- It is compulsory to sign in every mealtime. Failure to sign in results in a warning being issued and the threat of being ejected from the hotel.
- Staff do not allow residents to sit together in hotel’s collective spaces.
Residents describe abusive behaviour from staff which includes:
- Shouting at children.
- Disrespect towards women residents.
- Frightening people by knocking on bedroom doors loudly and entering without permission.
- Ridiculing residents who have been diagnosed with severe mental health issues.
- Refusing to access interpreters for people who cannot speak English.
RAPAR members have tried to raise these issues with a view to finding solutions with the hotel staff and, on occasions, have contacted the complaints mechanism – Migrant Help – that is supposed to resolve concerns. All to no avail.
You will appreciate Mr Hunter that these are all vulnerable people for whom raising these concerns has involved great courage and the real desire to make things improve for everyone at the hotel. We have faced similar and still unresolved problems at one of the SERCO-run hotels in Manchester (290622 open letter to MCC City Solicitor (yumpu.com) that persist. Further, as reported yesterday in the Guardian Newspaper (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/oct/30/pressure-cooker-coaches-keep-arriving-at-manston-migrant-centre) people seeking asylum who are being processed in Dover are reporting food, safety and scabies concerns. This is a UK wide issue. Consequently, we are including the Greater Manchester Mayor, the Greater Manchester Race Equality Panel and the four Stockport MP’s in this of persons receiving copies directly of this Open Letter, alongside Stockport’s Director of Public Health, and in the hope that a solution can be found across the conurbation and the UK as a whole.
RAPAR is ready to do whatever we can to help you, your colleagues, and your infrastructure to resolve these matters. Thank you for your attention and looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest opportunity.
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR member
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