Policy and Advocacy

Support for non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness this winter – Joint letter 29 October 2020

HMSC and a group of Homeless Grassroots organisations have written a joint letter to local authorities requesting to see action plans for supporting homeless non-UK nationals in their area over the winter months and beyond. This letter is a follow up from the letter written in June to Local Authorities requesting their commitment to supporting non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness throughout the pandemic.

The UK is currently experiencing a second wave of the pandemic. Winter shelters will be operating at a much reduced capacity with some not functioning at all. There have been no firm assurances from local authorities in England regarding support for homeless asylum seekers and migrants during winter.

The organisations urge Local Authorities to release their action plans for how they will be supporting homeless people especially asylum seekers and migrants. In addition, the organisations ask what other services and support will be provided to help homeless non-UK out of homelessness, such as immigration advice. Furthermore, the organisations ask Local Authorities to share how they have advocated to Central Government for a change in the law regarding the No recourse to Public Funds restriction that has pushed so many people into destitution.

Shelter have recently released stark statistics that show that Black people are more likely to be homeless or live in overcrowded accommodation. In turn, the signatories of this letter echo Shelter call for the Government to ‘end systemic racism within the housing system and to build more social homes.’

Read the full letter here.

Reverse the decision to evict people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and stop homelessness and destitution – 6 October 2020

HMSC has joined a collective of migrants’ rights organisations and individuals to express ‘deep concern’ for those facing homelessness following the decision to re-commence evictions of people living in asylum accommodation.

Since the 15th September, people who have been refused asylum in England have begun to receive notices to leave their accommodation, with plans to restart evictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at a later date.

HMSC and others are calling for an immediate halt to the evictions of people who have been refused asylum. As well as for a fully funded duty to be placed on Local Authorities to accommodate people with NRPF conditions.

This comes as the UK returns to Covid-19 alert level 4 with cases of the virus increasing. The risks to people affected by this decision are unacceptably high, with the likelihood of increased destitution and homelessness amongst those who are most vulnerable.

There is strong evidence that people from Black and Ethnic Minority Communities, including those facing eviction from asylum accommodation, face a significantly higher risk if exposed to the virus. 

In March 2020, the UK and devolved governments, took the decision to protect people seeking asylum, those at risk of homelessness with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and wider public health. These measures included the suspension of evictions from asylum accommodation and the provision of accommodation to everyone experiencing homelessness, regardless of their immigration status, through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative.

There are fears that the reversal of these temporary measures will have devastating consequences as those facing eviction typically have no source of alternative income or savings. 

Charities supporting those experiencing homelessness have had to radically rethink how they provide safe accommodation with significantly less capacity and concerns about their ability to support those most in need. Access to independent legal advice for people who have been refused asylum has also been impacted and is either unavailable or acutely oversubscribed. 

The joint letter to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary said,

‘We support the UK Government’s aim to eradicate rough sleeping in this Parliament; however it is clear that this cannot be achieved if evictions from asylum accommodation proceed in this way, and without an end to NRPF conditions which stop Local Authorities from being able to provide support to everyone who needs it.

We therefore ask that you immediately reverse this decision so as to prevent people who have been refused asylum becoming homeless and destitute, and to protect the health and safety of both individuals and the general public.’

UK Government must review free school meals eligibility and extend ‘nutritional safety net’ to undocumented children and all NRPF families

Haringey Migrant Support Centre (HMSC) is calling on the UK Government to ensure that children from low-income migrant families, and those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), receive free school meals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sixty organisations and charities have signed a joint letter to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, urging him to confirm that children living in poverty, including those affected due to their parents’ immigration status, will be eligible for free school meals permanently.

Currently the free school meal scheme does not include people who have no recourse to public funds because they have no status.

In April, the government extended the free school meal provision to children in some NRPF families; those with leave to remain and the NRPF condition attached to their leave. This provided a lifeline at the height of the pandemic and lockdown. However, there are now fears that the government intends to stop providing free meals to these children in the near future.

The letter to the Secretary of State for Education said: 

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the life of every child and young person in this country, but particularly children in low-income families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). 

‘With its initial decision to extend free school meals, the Government made a positive step in recognising that the exclusion of families with NRPF from the welfare system means that they are especially vulnerable to crises and at a greatly increased risk of extreme poverty. 

‘The COVID-19 pandemic simply exposed the precariousness of daily life for thousands of NRPF families, where the absence of a safety net leaves them only one crisis away from catastrophe.

‘We know that for many children their free school meal is the only healthy meal in their day – but the progress the Government has made by extending this vital lifeline to NRPF families will be lost unless you make this change permanent.

‘We ask that you urgently provide clarity to these families confirming that they will continue to be eligible for free school meals – fully and permanently. Furthermore, the Government must review free school meals eligibility to include other categories of NRPF families, including undocumented children, who are especially vulnerable to destitution and exploitation.’

See the full letter and list of signatories here

OPEN LETTER TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES, 18 June 2020

More than a hundred charities, campaign groups, lawyers and local councillors have urged local councils not to evict homeless people with NRPF from emergency accommodation provided through the Covid-19 homelessness response. The open letter also asks councils not to share homeless people’s information with the Home Office without their consent and to lobby for an end to the ‘no recourse to public funds (NRPF)’ system. Read our open letter to local authorities here. Members of the public can sign here to show their support.

We are braced for a further increase in rough sleeping as the effects of Covid – job losses, debt, evictions – further entrench inequalities in our communities. Migrants are particularly exposed to the racialised violence that is endemic among government institutions such as the Home Office. Local authorities have the power to mitigate the most harmful effects that impact migrants and should adopt anti-racist solutions: demand the abolition of NRPF policy and practice; commit to no data sharing; provide sanctuary.

OPEN LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOUSING, 28 May 2020

We’ve joined forces with more than 60 groups and charities across England to call on the government not to leave anyone out of the plans to end homelessness during the Covid-19 crisis. Read our letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

REPORT ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON HOMELESSNESS

The open letter above follows a report submitted by HMSC to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private sector. It draws from HMSC’s experience trying to support homeless and rough sleeping migrants during the crisis. Read the report here.