Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Written evidence submitted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness (ISSB34)

Summary

· The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ending Homelessness’ 2018 Inquiry into rapid responses to homelessness found that migrants that are homeless or at risk of homelessness currently face significant additional barriers to resolving it due to their immigration status. [1] Fear of detention or deportation, as well as a lack of access to support, means they are often left facing destitution and forced underground. Most migrants that are homeless have reached crisis point before seeking support.

· The APPG made a series of recommendations for how homelessness among migrants can be prevented or resolved more quickly. These included:

o Extending the 28-day move on period for refugees to at least 56 days.

o Removing the no recourse to public funds condition for survivors of domestic abuse, care leavers or families with dependent children who have been granted leave to remain on the basis of a right to a family or private life.  

· We cannot achieve the Government’s aim of ending rough sleeping unless we address the causes of migrant homelessness.

· The Immigration Bill provides an opportunity to address some of the barriers migrants face to resolving their homelessness by making provision to implement these recommendations.

Statistics

· In 2016, we saw the first decline in the number of non-UK nationals rough sleeping in London since 2010/11. This trend has continued throughout 2016/17 [2] .

· Nonetheless, non-UK nationals still constituted over half (53%) of people seen sleeping rough in London in 2016/17 .

· Statutory homelessness statistics show that approximately one fifth of the total number of people accepted as statutory homeless in England in 2016 were migrants [3] .

· However, these statistics only give us part of the picture due to a lack of accurate data on foreign nationals rough sleeping and on asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants in the UK, and the proportion of those who have experienced homelessness.

Extending the 28-day move on period

The APPG’s inquiry into rapid response s to homelessness found that an increasing number of refugees are facing destitution and homelessness as 28 days is not enough time for refugees to sort out welfare support, immigration status or find housing before the housing and financial support that was provided by the Home Office ends. Most asylum seekers are not permitted to work while they wait for a decision on their asylum claim and will have been reliant on financial support from the Home Office of £37.70 per week. This means they will have been unable to save the funds needed to access private rented housing. Consequently, refugees are left facing homelessness and destitution. Forced into precarious living situations , the transition to secure accommodation is delayed. Many end up relying on voluntary schemes for support.

Newly recognised refugees also face significant obstacles to accessing financial support through the mainstream benefits system. This can be because of delays in receiving

documentation from the Home Office, the minimum five week wait from applying for and receiving a Universal Credit payment or problems setting up a bank account.

The Home Office has worked with other government departments to try to address some of the challenges that refugees face that make it harder to access accommodation. Since 2017, the Post Grant Appointment Service, a joint initiative between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office, has been rolled out nationally. This aims to speed up refugees’ access to benefits on being granted status, however it does not provide any support or advice for finding housing. The effectiveness of the PGAS also remains unknown, as the evaluation of the scheme has still not been published, over a year since it was first expected. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has funded the appointment of 35 Local Authority Asylum Support Liaison Officers. Part of their role includes supporting refugees into housing, however it is too early to assess the impact of these measures on preventing homelessness.

While these changes are very welcome, many refugees continue to struggle to find accommodation after being granted status and more must be done to prevent refugees from becoming homeless. In London, the number of rough sleepers whose last settled base was asylum accommodation has increased over the past three years and in 2017/18 this accounted for almost three per cent of all new rough sleepers. [4] Crisis is also supporting an increasing number of people who became homeless because they had nowhere to live after leaving asylum accommodation. In 2016/17, 478 people (7% of new clients that year) approached Crisis for help for this reason. [5]

NACCOM, a charity that represents a network of organisations who provide accommodation and support to asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable migrants, reported that their members are accommodating a rising number of refugees. This includes people facing destitution after the end of the move on period. In 2017/18 NACCOM members accommodated 1,097 refugees. Of these, 37 per cent (401) were known to be newly recognised refugees not yet in receipt of benefits/employment when they applied for accommodation. This is thought to be a conservative estimate as many members do not record this information in detail. Members also reported that 918 people with refugee status had registered with their service for the first time, and of those who recorded this information, 81 per cent said this figure was either the same or higher than last year. [6] NACCOM also found that refugees are frequently using night shelters. They found that 48 out of 169 people requiring emergency accommodation in a sample of night shelters over the winter of 2017/18 were refugees. [7]

There is a clear need for change to the process and timeframe of the move on period for newly recognised refugees. It is crucial that refugees can benefit from support provided by the local authority to prevent homelessness. The Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) has extended the period that someone is considered to be threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days in recognition of the difficulties many people face trying to secure accommodation in four weeks. This reflects a consensus among local authorities and homelessness specialists that 28 days is not enough time to carry out meaningful prevention work. It therefore makes sense that the move-on period for refugees be extended to 56 days in line with this legislative change.

The move on period for newly recognised refugees should be extended from 28 days to at least 56 days in recognition of the difficulties many people face trying to secure accommodation in four weeks. This would also bring it in line with recent changes to homelessness legislation, which recognise that 28 days is often not long enough for local authorities to carry out meaningful prevention work.

Scrapping NRPF for vulnerable groups

Individuals affected by the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition fall into two groups, those that have leave to remain and the NRPF condition has been applied to their leave, or migrants who are awaiting a decision from the Home Office for their application for leave to remain and their previous leave to remain has expired. Those with leave to remain can usually work but are unable to access any welfare support or social housing. Those without existing leave to remain are unable to work or access welfare support, creating a risk of long-term destitution . Individuals are left facing ongoing destitution, homelessness and risk of exploitation.

The change s introduced to the Family Migration Rules in 2012 [8] affect in dividuals applying to remain in the UK with family, such as those caring for a British child, or a child who has lived in the UK for more than seven years . Under these changes, the no recourse to public funds condition is now automatically applied to an individual’s leave to remain under this route, which was not previously the case. The consequence has been significant increase in the hidden homelessness among this population.

Local authorities are left picking up the bill for accommodating and providing financial support to destitute migrant families that cannot access welfare support . Data collected by 50 local authorities working with the NRPF Network found that they were spending on average £41,689 per case before a resolution is achieved. Local Government is therefore facing a funding crisis of £63 million in order to provide this support to families and vulnerable adults who will eventually be granted leave to remain with recourse to public funds. [9]

Section 17 of the Children Act (1989) places a safeguarding duty on local authorities to support destitute families with no recourse to public funds . [10] However, evidence suggests t hat, despite the huge expense many councils face each year supporting families with NRPF, local authorities can still fall short of adequately fulfil their safeguarding duties. The Children’s Society reports that six in ten families with no recourse to public funds who applied for Section 17 support in 2015 were not supported by their local authority.

The no recourse to public funds restriction is also a major cause of poverty, destitution and homelessness amongst migrant women facing domestic abuse. In 2012, the destitution and domestic violence concession was introduced to allow domestic violence rule applicants the chance to access limited state benefits and housing whilst their application for indefinite leave to remain is considered. However, women on other visas , those who have been trafficked into the UK , or are here as migrant domestic workers, do not benefit from the reforms. Insecure immigration status is a prevailing factor that keeps women trapped in abusive situations.

Care leavers subject to immigration control often have no recourse to public funds. Consequently, most social workers say they can’t support care leavers to prepare for transition into adulthood and long-term accommodation until they resolve their immigration status. These young people are , therefore , forced to stay in semi-independent accommodation as the uncertainty of the ir immigration situation remains. Ensuring all care leavers have access to public funds up on leaving care would help aid their transition to adulthood and make them less likely to fall through the gaps by providing a much-needed safety net for this group of vulnerable young people. The government has now placed a duty on local authorities to provide a local offer of follow up support for all care leavers. [11]

The no recourse to public funds condition should not be applied to families with dependent children who have been granted leave to remain on the basis of a right to a family or private life .

The government must provide adequate support for all survivors of domestic violence, irrespective of immigration status. This should be achieved through expanding the DDV Concession scheme for individuals on all immigration routes and victims of trafficking.

Local authorities need to provide all young people in their care with adequate support to ensure that young people in their care resolve their immigration status in time, in line with their corporate parenting responsibilities. As part of their local offer for care leavers, all local authorities should make access to immigration advice and representation available.

Recommendations

The APPG for Ending Homelessness strongly urges that the Bill address the following recommendations:

· Extend the 28-day move on period for newly recognised refugees to at least 56 days in recognition of the difficulties many people face trying to secure accommodation in four weeks.

· Remove the no recourse to public funds condition for survivors of domestic abuse, families with dependent children and care leavers. These are all vulnerable groups for whom the no recourse to public funds condition can be especially damaging.

February 2019


[1] APPG for Ending Homelessness (2018) Rapidly responding to homelessness – a look at migrant homelessness, youth homelessness and rapid rehousing models. London: Crisis.

[2] Fitzpatrick, S., Pawson, H., Bramley, G., Wilcox, S., Watts, B. & Wood, J. (2018) The Homelessness Monitor: England 2018 . London: Crisis.

[3] Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (2017) Migrants and housing. http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/POST-PN-0560/POST-PN-0560.pdf

[4] Mayor of London (2018) CHAIN Annual Report Greater London April 2017 – March 2018. https://data.

[4] london.gov.uk/dataset/chain-reports

[5] Downie, M., Gousy, H., Basran, J., Jacob, R., Rowe, S., Hancock, C., Albanese, F., Pritchard, R., Nightingale,

[5] K. and Davies, T. (2018) Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain. London: Crisis.

[6] NACCOM (2018) Annual report 2017-18. https://naccom.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NACCOM-AnnualReport_2017-09-19_final-EMAIL.pdf

[7] NACCOM (2018) Mind the gap: Homelessness amongst newly recognised refugees. Newcastle Upon

[7] Tyne: NACCOM.

[8] Gov.uk (2019) Family and private life immigration rule changes 9 July 2012

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/family-and-private-life-rule-changes-9-july-2012

[9] NRPF Network Connect data (2018) Annual report, financial year 2017/2018 London: NRPF Network http://www.nrpfnetwork.org.uk/Documents/NRPF-connect-annual-report-2017-18.pdf

[10] Dexter, Z., Capron, L., Gregg, L. (2016) Making Life Impossible: How the needs of destitute migrant children are going unmet . London: The Children’s Society

[11] The Children’s Society (2019) A local offer for care leavers: A practical guide for local authorities developing a local offer for care leavers https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/resources-and-publications/a-local-offer-for-care-leavers-a-practical-guide-for-local

 

Prepared 28th February 2019