To coincide with World Refugee Day, NACCOM has launched its Mind the Gap – One Year On report, which builds on findings published in June 2018 that made a direct link between Home Office policy and the high prevalence of homelessness among refugees in the UK. Details from the follow-up report, which contains new evidence gathered from winter night shelters in Manchester, London and Leicester, have been published in an exclusive article in the Independent online.
Key data shows that 36% of refugees using the night shelter services were known to have left their asylum accommodation in the previous six months. This is a higher proportion than in 2018, when 21% of the refugee guests were known to have left asylum accommodation in the previous six months. In addition, the number of refugees known to have left asylum accommodation within the previous 1-4 weeks has risen proportionally.
Refugees highlight how stressful the experience of moving on from asylum support can be, and indicate that government initiatives introduced to improve the process – including phone calls to those recently granted status through the ‘Post Grant Appointment Service’ – are not sufficient.
Phillippe, a refugee from Nigeria, said: “The way the Home Office writes is very voluminous… I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t have a phone call from the Home Office. If someone had phoned and explained about it that would have been very helpful. My mental health was really struggling at that time. I was panicking. I didn’t know how to go about accessing the support.”
NACCOM has previously called on the Home Office to extend the ‘move-on’ period to 56 days, which would give newly recognised refugees longer to access housing support and find accommodation before they are evicted, and bring Home Office policy in line with other government departments tackling homelessness.
As well as highlighting the need for greater support for refugees during the move-on period, and urging the government to publish an evaluation of the Post Grant Appointment Service, the report points to delays with benefits for those recently granted status since the roll out of Universal Credit for all new applicants in December 2018 as exacerbating the risk of homelessness. Dariush said: “The Home Office needs to give people more than one month. I tried to arrange everything in 28 days but everywhere takes time. You can’t sort anything out in 28 days.”
Hazel Williams, NACCOM’s National Director, commented: “It’s a shocking reality that refugees continue to be homelessness, when it is entirely avoidable. For too long people coming here in search of safety have been welcomed by first being turfed out onto the streets. We call on the government to adopt the recommendations within our report and bring an end to this travesty”.
Key recommendations made in the report include:
- The move on period should be extended to at least 56 days alongside improvements to support, so no refugees face homelessness and destitution after leaving asylum accommodation.
- To help with this, the Home Office should pilot an extension of asylum support for a period of at least 56 days, including additional support, with the findings made publicly available.
- The Government should publish the findings from the Post Grant Appointment Service (PGAS) without delay, so learning from it can be embedded in future advice and support services.
- There should be robust monitoring in place to show the impact of changes to support for newly recognised refugees and this should be made public.
- The Government should publish an assessment of the appropriateness of Universal Credit advance payments for newly recognised refugees.
- Integration loans should be increased to reflect the cost of entering the private rental market and more information should be made available about them.
- Clear guidance should be given to Local Authorities about the obligations of contract providers so that non-compliance can be quickly identified, published and rectified.
- The Home Office should monitor and report on referrals from accommodation/advice providers to Local Authorities, so the impact can be monitored and if necessary the duty to refer extended to include the providers.
- The Right to Rent scheme should be abolished.
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