Asylum seeker experiences of living in West Berkshire
Healthwatch West Berkshire are pleased to publish our report into the lives of asylum seekers living in West Berkshire.
During the Covid testing and vaccination programme of 2021-22, Healthwatch met asylum seekers being housed in West Berkshire and the voluntary organisations supporting them. We were told of concerns about the living conditions and the experiences more generally of residents living at the Home Office Contracted Contingency Initial Accommodation (HOCCIAs) in West Berkshire.
As part of the Healthwatch remit to follow up on any concerns about health and social care services, and relay these to the relevant organisations, we carried out surveys among the people living in the HOCCIAs. We were supported to do this by partner voluntary organisations who regularly visit the accommodation.
We heard concerns relating to: the difficulty of accessing information about healthcare services; barriers to attending necessary medical appointments and preventative care; the food provided in the HOCCIAs; and the difficulties some residents were facing in accessing local educational or leisure opportunities.
We learned that isolation and long periods of time spent indoors were a contributor to feelings of hopelessness amongst residents.
One positive finding of the surveys was that most residents described having good or very good interactions with local people. Church and community groups have really stepped up to help the residents feel welcomed and to provide practical and moral support, easing the burden of loneliness and boredom.
Findings of the report and its recommendations are now being considered by West Berkshire Council and the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board. Healthwatch West Berkshire will follow up in three months to find out what's been happening.
Healthwatch West Berkshire, in conjunction with Healthwatch Reading and Healthwatch Wokingham Borough are talking to the Home Office and Ready Homes about our concerns for asylum seekers across Berkshire West.