This month’s update comes from the Refugee Survival Trust, one of NACCOM’s members working to end destitution in Scotland. As we write, it has been a busy and difficult few days for the charity’s small team, beginning with news that the local asylum accommodation provider, Serco, is planning to evict 300 people in Glasgow this month. In the last couple of days, the process has been suspended, with everyone involved awaiting news of future steps.
The Refugee Survival Trust, which prevents destitution amongst people seeking, refused or granted asylum in Scotland (with most of its services based in Glasgow) wrote last week; ‘The news that Serco intends to evict up to 300 people before they have the chance to appeal decisions or make alternative living arrangements is of significant concern to us. Third sector organisations are already stretched to the limit and simply do not have the capacity to meet this sudden surge in demand for people needing accommodation and financial support.’
The limited capacity of – and short timeframe to coordinate responses from – the third sector to proposed changes is of particular concern because the people facing eviction would have no statutory accommodation options.
The Refugee Survival Trust is a Full Member of NACCOM because of its role in a Glasgow-wide partnership, the Destitute Asylum Seeker Service (DASS) Project.
DASS provides casework support, legal advice and temporary accommodation to people who are ‘appeal rights exhausted’ at the end of the asylum process.
Specifically, DASS offers 10 bed spaces at a time to people in greatest need and whilst these spaces are essential, there are nowhere near enough of them to address existing, let alone future, demand.
Another major concern that the charity faces at the moment is around the future of its much-used destitution grants. These are offered on a weekly basis for up to two weeks, primarily to people who are destitute after being refused asylum but also newly recognised refugees.
The grant, which is £36 per week, provides support with basic needs like food, shelter and transport, and over the past year (from July 2017 to June 2018) has helped more than 2,000 people – including hundreds of children.
This, the charity reports, represents a 100% increase over the past two years, and without statutory funding, it is unsurprising that even before the news from Serco, they have been struggling to meet demand.
Last week, the Refugee Survival Trust announced that with less than one month’s reserves in the bank, the fund was likely to be suspended at the end of August. In a blog post, Zoe Holliday, the charity’s coordinator, explained; ‘Refugee Survival Trust Destitution Grants are an important safety net to thousands of the most vulnerable people in Scotland every year, including those who are affected by the Serco eviction notices in the news this week. Our grants are always given as a last resort, when no other support is available. It does not bear thinking about what compromising situations these individuals and families may be forced into, without this important safety net.’
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The Refugee Survival Trust have also highlighted how the Scottish government is failing to take decisive action to support those facing destitution at this crucial time: ‘The Scottish Government is two months overdue in following up the recommendations in the ‘Hidden Lives – New Beginnings: Destitution, Asylum and Insecure Immigration Status in Scotland’ report, which recognised the ‘essential safety net’ provided by third sector, voluntary and charitable organisations and included a call ‘to investigate the potential to create a Crisis Fund, which could provide a central point from which to gather data on the scale and nature of destitution in Scotland and thereafter inform the direction of policy and funding decisions.’
To call for change in this area of need, people are encouraged to write to the First Minister. See here for contact details.
Hazel Williams, NACCOM’s National Director, says; ‘Our members and the residents they support know all too well that eviction from asylum accommodation is not the end of the asylum journey for people who are seeking safety.
It is however the end of a roof over someone’s head and the beginning of an experience that no one should go through, one of complete destitution and reliance on charities and community networks to survive.
It is untenable to expect third sector organisations to address this problem, when it has been created and perpetuated by years of hostile government policy.
The Westminster government is ultimately responsible for this broken system and we urge them to act quickly and compassionately to bring an end to destitution across the UK’.
To find out more about membership of NACCOM, click here.