Update on Serco evictions and accommodation contract in Glasgow

Destitution IStock c.Kuzma

Reports in June said 300 people in Glasgow faced lock change evictions. What’s the situation now?

Serco threatened in June to make 300 people homeless through lock change evictions at a rate of 30 people each week. 

This led to an outcry across Glasgow. Living Rent mobilised a grassroots campaign, raising awareness in affected neighbourhoods and organising demonstrations in the city.

We brought law firms, housing charities and NGOs together for the #StopLockChangeEvictions campaign, pushing Serco to immediately end summary evictions.

Lawyers worked with individuals at risk to secure temporary legal protection from eviction (known as interim interdicts) and managed to achieve this for 140 people out of the 300 at risk. We continue to run legal surgeries to help as many affected people as possible meet with housing solicitors.

How many people's locks were actually changed?

We know of five people who were locked out of their flats by Serco in August 2019. 

Does that mean 295 people are still at risk?

Hundreds of people are still at risk. We don't know the precise number as some people's legal situations may have changed since August. Our advisers have helped a number of people who were at risk to move onto emergency support (known as Section 4 support).  

What about the Court of Session appeal hearing on 28 Aug?

We are still waiting for the court to rule on this. We didn't expect this to take so long.

If it is decided that lock change (summary) evictions are lawful, then Serco will be able to evict people from their homes without going through the courts. This means that people will not have time to receive legal advice before being made street homeless.

If these evictions are found to be unlawful, Serco will be forced to seek court orders in advance of any planned eviction. (It's important to note that most people in Scotland are protected from summary eviction without a court order.)

So even a favourable court judgement won’t protect people from eviction?

Unfortunately, no. A positive (for us) ruling will merely force Serco (and Mears) to secure court orders before evicting people. However people who are granted a court order eviction may be able to appeal the decision.

 Are Serco not already using court orders to evict people?

 Yes. In recent weeks, Serco has sought court orders for 33 people, and won in every case called so far (around 15). Even those with interim interdicts are not protected from this.

In less than a month, these people will once again face eviction. We are worried that Serco will raise court orders for as many other people as soon as possible. 

So potentially hundreds of people could still face eviction this winter?

Yes.

Why is Serco still involved in asylum accommodation? Hasn't their contract in Glasgow ended?

Serco began trying to evict people in June 2019. Due to grassroots and legal campaigns, they have not been able to evict the majority of these people before the new provider, Mears Group, took over in September 2019.

Will Mears Group use lock change evictions? 

We have pushed Mears to reassure people publicly and unequivocally that they will never carry out summary evictions. We have not yet seen or heard them make this commitment,.

Why does the asylum accommodation system let so many people down?

The whole asylum system fails people. It is not easy to get refugee protection in the UK and there are many questions about the quality of asylum decision making.

When people are refused asylum, they face a gap in the system. There is no accommodation provided for people whose claims have been refused. This forces people into destitution at an extremely vulnerable point in their lives. Instead of being able to gather evidence for a fresh asylum claim or make an informed decision about their future, people are forced onto the streets, with the threat of detention and removal hanging over their heads.

What needs to be done?

The asylum system needs to be reformed so people receive basic financial support and a roof over their head until they are either granted asylum or are able to return to their home country. Until this happens, we need a safety net of shelter, care, food, support and advocacy for people being forced onto Glasgow’s streets.

What can I do?

Support our campaign #StopLockChangeEvictions.

Spread the word about advice line and support for people who are destitute. 0141 223 7979

Speak up and stand up for people in Scotland at the mercy of an unfair asylum system. 

Fight back against the hostile environment by saying #refugeeswelcome