The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ending Homelessness recently launched its second annual report. The focus was on migrant homelessness, youth homelessness and rapid rehousing models.
The report, which can be found in full here, includes key findings and recommendations related to barriers faced by migrants, summarised below:
- The first is poor decision making and procedural errors, which the report calls for Home Office ministers to address as a matter of urgency. Findings from NACCOM’s 2016-17 report featured here, with evidence of how 60% of those refused asylum seekers who had moved on from members’ projects in the previous twelve months were either granted statutory support or Leave to Remain.
- Another major issue is legal advice. The report highlights how the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act led to 94% of immigration advice being taken out of the scope of legal aid. Meanwhile the development of legal advice deserts across the UK has deepened barriers to justice, even for those within the scope of legal aid (for more on this see Refugee Action and NACCOM’s report, Tipping the Scales). The report calls for legal aid to be reintroduced for all immigration cases, and for more legal advice to be made available through government funding of good practice models.
- Key challenges are also faced by families and people fleeing abusive relationships, with the report quoting evidence from The Children’s Society 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 councils. For more on the impact that this can have, see this recent report by Project 17. Meanwhile certain restrictions imposed on domestic violence legislation mean many who need urgent support, including those who have been trafficked, continue to struggle. The report recommends lifting the ‘NRPF’ condition in certain cases and ensuring local authorities are subject to safeguarding duties under Section 17.
- Restrictive policies brought in over recent years under the ‘hostile environment’, including Right to Rent and bank account checks, were given attention and the report recommended for these discriminatory and oftentimes discredited policies to be reversed.
- Finally, the chapter on migrant homelessness explores the impact of the 28-day move-on period for newly recognised refugees, and, in line with other research, such as NACCOM’s Mind the Gap report and evidence from the APPG on Refugees enquiry in 2016, calls for this time-frame to be extended.
Following the launch of the report earlier this summer, we spoke to Leah Miller, Public Affairs Officer at Crisis (the charity that holds the secretariat for the APPG) about how the report has been received and what people can do to support its recommendations and take further action.
Tell us about the launch of the report:
‘The report was launched during a parliamentary reception at Westminster. It was great to be joined by so many colleagues across the homelessness, immigration and youth sectors, as well as MPs and peers. Interim Homelessness Minister Nigel Adams attended and spoke at the event, giving the Government’s reaction to the report. We were pleased that the Minister recognised the importance of rapid rehousing approaches to ending homelessness, and that these must be included in the Government’s forthcoming Rough Sleeping Strategy. We were also very pleased to be joined by people who have experienced homelessness, including a woman who has been subject to NRPF status and who gave a very powerful speech on her and her children’s’ experience of homelessness as a consequence of this. This included having to spend a night in a police station, simply because they had nowhere else to go.’
How were the recommendations received by parliamentarians?
‘The recommendations have been received well by parliamentarians who have seen the report and attended the launch. However, there is a lot more work to do to make sure the report and its recommendations are picked up by all those who can deliver the changes the report shows we so desperately need. The report highlights the importance of ensuring tackling homelessness is a priority across all Government departments and that there is a joined-up approach to addressing the issues raised.’
What can people do to support the report both locally and nationally?
‘We would ask people to make sure their MP is aware of the report and the APPG’s recommendations and call on them to raise the issues highlighted by the report with the Government. This could be through emailing or writing to them or if your MP is on social media, linking them to the report through that.
Equally, we would urge people to contact their local council to ensure they are aware of the report and its recommendations, as well as to discuss how they can be support our recommendations by joining us in calling on the Government to ensure they are adequately supported to fulfil their duties towards homeless people.
The upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill and the Immigration Bill also provide welcome opportunities to campaign on some of the report’s recommendations and try to get them delivered. If anyone is interested in getting more actively involved in the APPG for Ending Homelessness and our work on this issue, we would very much encourage them to get in touch with the Secretariat at APPG@crisis.org.uk for further details of how to get involved.’