Featuring evidence from winter night shelters in the network, earlier this month NACCOM published ‘Mind the Gap‘, a report highlighting how Home Office policy is out of sync with efforts by other government departments to prevent homelessness, reduce rough sleeping and support the integration of refugees into British society.
The report, which was featured in an Independent article last week, finds a direct link between the Home Office policy of giving newly recognised refugees only 28 days to vacate asylum accommodation (the so-called ‘move-on’ period) and the high prevalence of homelessness among refugees in the UK.
Bahram, an Iranian refugee living in Manchester, said; ‘I went to the council. They said… I would have to rent somewhere. But I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have any money…. I don’t have any place to go, I don’t know what to do. 28 days is too short. A little bit longer would be better. After that you could sort your life, you could find a job, you could rent a house… But it is too short… Staying in the night shelter helped me. If I didn’t have the night shelter, I would have had to stay in the road.’
The report finds that the reasons for homelessness amongst newly recognised refugees are clear and avoidable, and calls for government officials to make urgent reforms so refugees are treated with fairness not hostility. This includes extending the move-on period which would bring Home Office policy in line with wider legislative changes. The Homelessness Reduction Act (which came into force last month) extends the period of time that someone can be deemed ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28-56 days and allows local councils more time to reduce risks by developing personal housing plans and providing free advice. However, refugees cannot benefit in the same way as other applicants to these changes because they only have 28 days before eviction.
Hazel Williams, NACCOM’s National Director, said;
‘This report shows the shocking reality that people who come here in search of safety and are indeed granted that protection from the UK Government are then forced into destitution. The work of our members to prevent this from happening is commendable but should not be necessary. The UK Government’s insistence that refugees need just one month to access benefits and housing, sometimes after years of waiting for a decision without being able to work or access mainstream support, is unrealistic and outdated. Against a backdrop of limited social housing, hostile policies towards migrants trying to access private housing, rising street homelessness and delays with Universal Credit, extending the move on period would be a simple, humane response with a lasting impact.’To view the report click here