An Open Letter To Local Councils

cc

London Councils

Local Government Association
NRPF Network

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing

 

18 June 2020

 

Dear Chief Executive and Council Leader/Mayor

 

Re: Support for homeless people, including those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

 

We are writing to urge your local authority to commit to providing ongoing shelter and support to all those experiencing or at risk of homelessness during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and to do so regardless of immigration status.

 

We are also asking you to join us in publicly calling on the government to end the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) regime, which exposes many people living in the UK to destitution, including rough sleeping.

 

We recognise that councils are operating under extremely challenging conditions due to the pandemic. We are also aware that a decade of austerity, combined with a loss of revenue as a result of ‘lockdown’ measures, has placed local-authority budgets under severe strain.

 

It is clear that central government has not provided sufficient funding to local authorities to support homeless people during this crisis. This has been compounded by the failure of MHCLG to provide guidance on what legal powers councils should use to support those who would not normally be eligible for assistance. The NRPF condition, which restricts some migrants’ access to welfare benefits, has placed the burden of supporting such people on overstretched local authorities.[1]

 

As a result, and despite the efforts of some councils, many homeless people, particularly those with NRPF, remain without shelter during this pandemic. Others have experienced unacceptable ‘gatekeeping’ or have received inadequate support once accommodated.[2] Some people with insecure immigration status have been told by councils that their information may be shared with the Home Office for immigration-enforcement purposes.

 

As lockdown measures are eased, we are extremely concerned that some homeless people, particularly those with NRPF, may be evicted from council-provided accommodation and be forced to return to destitution. This would be a moral, humanitarian and public health catastrophe, especially given that many shelters will be unable to reopen due to ongoing social distancing requirements.

 

As you will be aware, the homelessness minister recently confirmed that the legal position on support for people with NRPF ‘has not changed’, suggesting that councils should make use of ‘voluntary repatriation’.[3] We are deeply concerned by these announcements.

 

Nobody should be forced to sleep rough, regardless of their immigration status. Nobody should be forced to leave the country they call ‘home’.

 

In light of the above, we are asking your local authority to take the following steps:

1. Commit to continuing to support everybody who is, or is at risk of, sleeping rough, and to do so regardless of immigration status. This commitment must include assurances that nobody will be evicted from temporary accommodation provided through the pandemic response unless and until suitable long-term housing has been found for them.

 

 

  1. Urgently and publicly advocate to central government for the removal of all NRPF restrictions, including those that apply to undocumented migrants and EEA citizens without a qualifying right to reside, to ensure that everyone can access shelter and meet their basic needs during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

  1. Provide assurances that homeless people’s data will never be shared with the Home Office without their informed consent and that nobody will be offered ‘voluntary return’ or ‘reconnection’ to their country of origin as a ‘single service offer’.

 

We are grateful to those local authorities who have already signalled their wish to ensure that nobody is forced to return to the street. However, in these extraordinary circumstances, further efforts are required to uphold everybody’s right to shelter, regardless of immigration status.

 

We look forward to hearing from you and to continuing to work with you around this issue. Please send your response to advocacy@haringeymsc.org

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Refugee Action

JCWI

Praxis

Doctors of the World

Jesuit Refugee Service

NACCOM

The Big Issue Foundation

Migrants Rights’ Network

City of Sanctuary UK

Helen Bamber Foundation
WeBelong

Haringey Migrant Support Centre

Public Interest Law Centre

Museum of Homelessness

Streets Kitchen

Labour Homelessness Campaign

Paper Cup Project

Emmaus UK

Migrant Voice

UKLGIG

Help Refugees/Choose Love

Project 17

Just Fair

Maternity Action

Right to Remain

Labour Campaign for Free Movement

AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees)

APLE Collective

West London Welcome

Hackney Migrant Centre

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth

Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers

Southwark Law Centre

Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network

Simon Community

South London Refugee Association

PLOD Foundation

Highgate Newtown Community Centre

Brixton People’s Kitchen

Be Enriched

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit

University of Liverpool Law Clinic

RAPAR

Greater Manchester Law Centre

Greater Manchester Housing Action

Coffee4Craig

Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS)

Action Foundation

Refugee Action York

Hope Housing

Sanctus St Mark’s

Baobab Women’s Project

SIFA Fireside

As Suffa Institute

Period Power

The Hope Projects

Covpeace House

Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group

Birmingham Trade Union Council

Entraide (Mutual Aid)

Voices in Exile

Surviving the Streets

Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition

Bristol Refugee Rights

Refugee Support Devon

Liz Davies, Joint Head of Chambers, Garden Court Chambers

Stephanie Harrison QC, Joint Head of Chambers, Garden Court Chambers

Stephen Kamlish QC, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Helen Curtis, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Louise Hooper, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Meredoc McMinn, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Connor Johnston, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Sophie Caseley, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Ubah Dirie, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Russell Fraser, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Kathryn Cronin, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Michael House, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Greg Ó Ceallaigh, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Susan Wright, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Cllr Shaista Aziz, Oxford

Cllr Mike Roberts, Rushmoor

Cllr Majid Mahmood (Bromford and Hodge Hill Ward)

Cllr Diane Donaldson (Bromford and Hodge Hill Ward)

Cllr Kerry Jenkins (Moseley Ward)

Cllr Pete Lowe (Stourbridge and Lye)

Cllr Judy Foster (Brockmoor and Pensnett)

Cllr Nicky Brennan (Sparkhill)

Cllr Narinder Kaur Kooner OBE (Handsworth Wood)

Cllr Akhlaq Ahmed (Hall Green North)

Cllr Samantha Charles, (Malvern Hills)

Cllr Julie Baines (Amblecote)

Cllr Tim Crumpton (Cradley and Wollescote)

Cllr Qadar Zada (Netherton, Woodside and St Andrew’s)

Cllr Shaun Pender (Hartshill and Basford)

Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust, Mayor of Camden

Cllr Jumbo Chan, (Kensal Green Ward)

Cllr Alan Hall, (Bellingham Ward)

Cllr Soraya Adejare, (Dalston)

Cllr Gail Macenna, (Haverstock)

Cllr Gerogie Robertson, (Kings Cross)

Cllr Leo Cassarani, (Swiss Cottage)

Cllr Sue Vincent, (Holborn and Covent Garden)

Cllr Simon Pearson, (Swiss Cottage)

Cllr Paul White (Tooting)

Cllr Maurice McLeod, (Queenstown)

Cllr Paula Walker, (Queenstown)

Cllr Jo Rigby, (Earlsfield)

Cllr Claire Gilbert, (Roehampton and Putney Heath)

Cllr Sasha Dasgupta, (Forest Gate North)

Cllr Puru Miah, (Mile End)

Cllr Gabriela Salva Macallan, (St Peter’s)

Jack Jeffery Unite Housing Branch Secretary

Ravi Subramanian (Unison Regional Secretary)

Andy Jolly, trustee, BIRCH Network

Salma Yaqoob

 

 

[1]See e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/26/london-mayor-rough-sleeper-funding-run-out-sadiq-khan-homeless-hotels

https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/press-release/15-may-2020/london-boroughs-call-%E2%80%98urgent-clarity%E2%80%99-rough-sleeping-next-steps

https://twitter.com/lewishamlabour/status/1252926759806414848

 

[2] Jolly, A., Sojka, B., Dickson, E., Qureshi, F., Stamp, D., Morgan, B. (2020) Local Authority Responses to people with NRPF during the pandemic: Interim project findings briefing. ICRD, Wolverhampton https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341651441_Local_Authority_Responses_to_people_with_’No_Recourse_to_Public_Funds’_during_the_pandemic_Interim_project_findings_briefing

[3]

https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/homeless-migrants-may-be-offered-voluntary-repatriation-once-hotels-close-says-minister-66389

Posted in News.